Palestinians ‘let down by their leaders,’ Kushner says
Kushner led the two-day Peace to Prosperity conference in Manama and on Wednesday discussed the aftermath of the workshops with reporters mainly from the Arab World during a 30 minute long teleconference. Our door is always open to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian leadership, says Kushner
By Ray Hanania
Senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday cautioned against “misunderstandings” about the purpose of the “Peace to Prosperity” conference laid out during a two-day workshop with world economic leaders last week in Bahrain.
During a 30-minute teleconference with mostly Arab world journalists, Kushner stressed that the “economic plan” was an incentive and a foundation for a “political plan” that he expects President Trump to outline later in the year. But he said the economic plan will not happen unless a political solution is found, and the economic effort could be refocused on other regions, including Africa.
He said there will be more announcements next week, but gave no date for the unveiling of the “political plan.”
Describing his critics as “ignorant” and “hysterical” through their failure to address the two-state solution, Kushner urged Palestinians to engage in the process and stressed the door remains open for their participation.
“There will be no economic plan unless there is a political resolution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said.
“We put together a plan and this plan happens in the event that there is a peace deal. So, again, this is not about let’s go ahead and start investing money in this area. This is a big plan and we don’t want to start until there is an actual peace understanding that is fair and viable,” Kushner told journalists.
“The goal of the workshop was to lay out an economic plan for what can happen in the region in the event of a political solution. There is no plan to make these investments before achieving political progress. With regard to the economic plan, it was meant to be devoid of the politics.”
Kushner called critics of the plan “ignorant” and said that regardless of Trump’s fondness for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians must “come to their senses” and embrace this process. He said the Palestinian leadership has failed to take any constructive steps to make their communities safer and their people more prosperous.
“With regards to the Palestinian leadership, I’ll just say this: I think they made a strategic mistake by not engaging on this. They looked very foolish by trying to fight against this … they are saying, well you can’t have this without the political issues,” he said.
Kushner said he has been “very explicit” that the Trump administration plans to address the “political issues” at an appropriate time later.
“We were laying out a vision for what could be if we are able to resolve the political issues. We have put out a vision of hope and prosperity for the Palestinian people and, quite frankly, the Palestinian leadership, I am not quite sure what they are selling to the people,” he said.
“Their argument against it has not been one that has been substantive or even comprehendable (sic). It has been more hysterical and erratic and not terribly constructive. We believe the goal of leadership should be figure out how to keep their people safe and give their people prosperity.”
Kushner said he would refuse to allow the process to be “hijacked” by critics who surround Abbas.
It is very easy to find reasons “not to resolve this,” Kushner said. “There is a lot of emotion, a lot of issues that are hard to resolve. They are very uncomfortable with the way that we have approached this. And their natural response is to attack and say crazy things and, quite frankly, we don’t find that to be terribly constructive.”
Kushner demonstrated his strong pro-Israel bias when he said that “many Palestinians” are starting to see that it “really is not the Israelis who are responsible for their problems and their lack of opportunities, a lot of it is their leadership.”
Asked during a brief Q&A afterwards why the process has failed to address the two-state solution, Kushner replied: “People who are giving that criticism, I call that uninformed criticism because they haven’t listened to what we have been doing with this effort. If that is the best criticism they can come up with that means they are just ignorant because they have not listened to what we are trying to do. Those are people who are looking to find things to criticize as opposed to people who are trying to be thoughtful, opened-minded and constructive.”
He said that the problem falls on the shoulders of the Arab world, not on Israel, explaining the Arab world “failed” by not absorbing the nearly 800,000 Palestinian refugees following the 1948 war, while Israel absorbed 800,000 Jewish “refugees” from Arab countries.
“Over the past two years we have made a lot of progress in terms the Middle East accepting Israel as a reality and as a real country. We believe this trend will continue. There will be a point in the future where there will be normalization with Israel and the rest of the Arab world, and when that happens it will lead to a much more stable and safer Middle East, and there will be a lot more economic potential and opportunity for all people in the region,” Kushner said.
“We have continued to be thoughtful and we have continued to be meticulous … and we haven’t lost sight of our goal, which is to figure out how to put forward the best set of proposals to help both the Israelis and the Palestinian people have the opportunity to live a better life.”
Despite the criticism, Kushner said: “Our door is always open to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian leadership. Whether they are willing to take that opportunity will be up to them. What we are trying to do in our role is to create an opportunity for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to potentially resolve a conflict that has been unresolved for too long.”
Trump “will work hard” to try to bring a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said, but at some point “the Palestinian leadership will have to step up.”
Kushner repeated a subtle warning he made during the conference, that many African-American leaders approached him privately and publicly asking that if the Palestinians reject the $50 billion laid out in the Peace to Prosperity plan, that the money be given to African nations to address their economic concerns.
“What we saw from this is that there is a lot of interest in the world in helping the Palestinian people. And that the constant theme we heard from the speakers was the plan is very technical, very credible, ambitious,” Kushner said.
“It is achievable, but it can’t be implemented without a peace deal, and it can’t be implemented without good governance because without good governance people will not want to invest in the area.”
Investors are ready to help if a political solution is found, but nothing will happen if the Palestinians do not engage in the process, he added.