France’s outgoing ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, said US President Donald Trump is uniquely able to “push” Israel on his upcoming peace plan because he is extremely popular among Israelis and they “trust him.”
In an interview with The Atlantic magazine published on Friday, Araud said the White House plan, engineered by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, will be “very close to what the Israelis want,” and is 99 percent “doomed to fail.”
“But 1 percent, you never forget the 1 percent. Trump is uniquely able to push the Israelis, because he is so popular in Israel,” he said.
Araud, who served as France’s ambassador to Israel from 2003 to 2006, positioned himself as “very close” to Kushner, whom he described as “extremely smart, but he has no guts.” Araud has served as French ambassador to Washington since 2014 and is retiring.
Kushner, Araud claimed, “doesn’t know the history” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “and in a sense, it’s good — we are not here to say who is right, who is wrong; we are trying to find a way [toward a solution].”
“So in a sense, I like it, but at the same time he is so rational, and he is so pro-Israeli also, that he may neglect the point that if you offer the Palestinians the choice between surrendering and committing suicide, they may decide the latter. Somebody like Kushner doesn’t understand that,” he asserted.
Araud told the magazine that the White House was counting on three factors when it comes to the peace plan. The first is Trump’s popularity in Israel.
“Trump, he said, is more popular than [Benjamin] Netanyahu in Israel, so the Israelis trust him. That’s the first bet, Kushner told me. The second is that the Palestinians may consider it’s their last chance to get limited sovereignty. And the third element is Kushner is going to pour money on the Palestinians. Don’t forget, the Arabs are behind the Americans. The plan is 50 pages, we were told, very precise; we don’t know what is in the plan. But we’ll see,” he said.
Araud added that “the disproportion of power is such between the two sides that the strongest [Israel] may conclude that they have no interest to make concessions.”
Israel is “extremely comfortable” with the status quo, he said, “because they [can] have the cake and eat it. They have the West Bank, but at the same time they don’t have to make the painful decision about the Palestinians, really making them really, totally stateless or making them citizens of Israel.
“They won’t make them citizens of Israel. So they will have to make it official, which is we know the situation, which is an apartheid. There will be officially an apartheid state. They are in fact already,” he claimed.
The details of the Trump plan have been kept under wraps, but rumors of its content have swirled, particularly on social media.
Last week, Kushner said the plan will not be unveiled until June at the earliest. Kushner told some 100 foreign diplomats the plan will be rolled out after the new Israeli government is sworn in and following the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends June 5.
He urged them to keep an “open mind,” according to a source cited by Reuters.
Although little is known about the long-awaited plan, recent reports in the Washington Post and Guardian suggested it would not include full Palestinian statehood.
That is a likely deal-breaker for Palestinians, who were already not cooperating with Trump’s Middle East team following the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and moving of the US embassy there in May 2018.
On Friday, US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt warned both Israel and the Palestinians against rejecting Trump’s peace plan and rejected the use of the term “two-state solution” in an interview released by Sky News Arabic.
There was no reason to use the term because each side understood it differently, Greenblatt said, according to Channel 12 news.
He said both sides needed to be prepared for direct negotiations as each would have to make concessions, and there would be elements of the deal that each side would be satisfied with, and parts each would dislike.
Greenblatt said both sides would miss an opportunity for peace if they did not accept the deal, but he issued a special warning to the Palestinians, noting they had already spoken out against the plan before seeing it, while suggesting that it could have a significant and positive impact on their future.
In his interview with The Atlantic, Araud described Trump’s governing manner as “brutal, a bit primitive,” but said he is “right” in some issues, such as free trade.
“What he’s doing with China should have been done, maybe in a different way, but should have been done before,” he said.
Araud told the magazine that two particular instances during Trump’s presidency thus far shocked the French: the pullout from the Paris climate agreement and from the Iran nuclear deal.
In both cases, according to his account, the French were under the impression that discussions surrounding the issues were going well.
Araud said that before Trump announced the US pullout from the Iran deal, Paris was “negotiating with the administration on an agreement to complement[it]…, on missiles, terrorism, and Iran’s regional activities.”
Araud said Paris and Washington were very close to an agreement, “people say 90 percent.”
“There was absolutely no crisis in the negotiation. And suddenly overnight, everything was over. It was decided overnight; it was decided by Trump. Nobody was warned, and the day after, nobody was able to tell us what it meant for us,” he went on.
He described the White House as “so dysfunctional,” however, adding there’s “only one person who can commit the United States [to an agreement], and it’s Donald Trump.”