Jared Kushner talks a good game about the Trump administration’s deep commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East.
Last week, Kushner again traveled to the Middle East to talk with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with Arab leaders. While there, Kushner gave a rare interview to a prominent Palestinian newspaper. The aim was presumably to convince the Palestinian people to embrace his soon-to-be-released proposal -- but he spent the interview lambasting President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority’s leadership.
The interview exemplified all that’s wrong with this administration’s approach. While offering empty platitudes about the benefits of peace, Kushner refused to endorse the two-state solution or to promise that he is working toward full Palestinian statehood -- continuing President Trump’s disastrous walk-back of 25 years of US and international consensus.
And he failed to acknowledge that the actions of this administration have alienated Palestinian leadership, empowered Israel’s right-wing rejectionists and shattered American credibility as a good-faith mediator.
As veteran US diplomats Phil Gordon and Prem Kumar wrote this week, the “assumptions on which [Kushner] appears to be basing his plan -- whatever its precise contents turn out to be -- are so flawed that it is fair to wonder if his aim is really to start serious negotiations, or simply to please President Trump’s base by gearing up to blame the Palestinian side for the failure to come.”
From the start, the steps taken by Trump and Kushner have made clear that their end goal isn’t really an agreed-upon resolution of the conflict. Everything they do moves in the opposite direction -- from embracing the hardline positions of the Netanyahu government and making a settlement movement benefactor the US ambassador to Israel, to provocatively changing the US position on the status of Jerusalem.
Their hope seems to be that they can convince Arab leaders in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf to pressure President Abbas into accepting Netanyahu’s vision of a “state-minus,” in which Palestinians are given some degree of greater autonomy, but not genuine statehood and independence.
No one can credibly call that a "peace plan." Instead, what the administration is producing is a roadmap for erasing the long-standing international consensus over how the conflict is going to end.
All those who support Israeli-Palestinian peace must make clear: There is no end-run around the two-state solution. There is no viable alternative to the establishment of a truly independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.
Both states, Israel and Palestine, will have to have their capitals in Jerusalem, with the borders between them based on the pre-1967 lines with swaps. There will need to be compromises by both sides on the core issues at the root of the conflict: borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.
We need leaders who will do everything they can to build trust and credibility with both Israelis and Palestinians to achieve these compromises. And part of that leadership is speaking out against counterproductive actions and rhetoric taken by both sides -- whether around the violence in the south or creeping annexation of the West Bank.
An American administration truly serious about promoting peace through a two-state solution would speak out, for instance, in opposition to what’s happening to Palestinian communities like Khan al-Ahmar, which The New York Times covered in a major feature this week.
The New York Times documents how the Israeli government and right-wing NGOs are pushing forward the demolition and displacement of Palestinian villages in order to entrench the occupation and bisect the land that should form part of a future Palestinian state. And they are doing so “[w]ith the Trump administration providing diplomatic cover.”
It’s exactly the kind of devastating policy that J Street has been working hard to fight. Through our student-led “Stop Demolitions, Build Peace” campaign, we’ve built awareness about the issue and supported important congressional letters opposing demolitions and displacement.
While the president gives the settlement movement the green light, we’re doing everything we can to defend the two-state solution and preserve hope for a better future. And we refuse to back down.
In the coming weeks, as Kushner and his team try to sell their effort as a serious “peace proposal,” we’re going to keep our eyes on what’s happening on the ground.
Vague talk and empty promises cannot substitute for the serious, proactive US diplomacy needed to help achieve lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
Thanks for all that you do,
President, J Street