Kushner doubts Palestinians will be able to govern themselves

Senior adviser to US president says he’s ‘not here to be trusted’ by the Ramallah government, Palestinian people will be open to peace plan because they ‘want a better life’

Screen capture from video of Jared Kushner, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, during an interview with the Axios on HBO channel, published June 2, 2019. (Axios)
Screen capture from video of Jared Kushner, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, during an interview with the Axios on HBO channel, published June 2, 2019. (Axios)

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, has indicated he is uncertain whether the Palestinians can be trusted to govern themselves following a peace agreement with Israel.

In an interview with the “Axios on HBO” current affairs program published Monday, Kushner, who is one of the chief architects of Trump’s as-yet-unveiled peace plan, conceded he doesn’t expect the Palestinians to trust him, but claimed that “there is a difference between the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people.”

His remarks came as it was reported that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in private talks last week, acknowledged that parts of the peace plan might be “unexecutable,” could fail, or may be dismissed out of hand by either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

Asked by Axios if he believes Palestinians are able to govern themselves without Israeli involvement, Kusher said, “That’s a very good question… The hope is that over time, they can become capable of governing.”

Kushner said Palestinians, who want full statehood, “should have self-determination.” But pressed as to whether, following a peace agreement, the Palestinians would be completely free of Israeli intervention, including military, Kushner indicated he doubted that would happen. Israel wants to maintain control over the border with Jordan, even following a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“I think that it’s a high bar,” he said. “If you don’t have a proper government structure and proper security when people are living in fear of terror, that hurts Palestinians.”

He said the Palestinians “need to have a fair judicial system… freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions” in order to make the Palestinian territories “investable.”

(L-R) Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, Trump adviser Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Israel’s US envoy Ron Dermer, at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 30, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Kushner and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, the other Washington official who designed the peace plan, are touring the region to lay the groundwork for its economic section, which is to be unveiled at a conference in Bahrain later this month.

Last week the pair met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, but did not hold talks with Palestinians, who broke off diplomatic contact with Washington after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv last year. Since then the Trump administration has also cut off financial aid to the Palestinians and shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

The Palestinians have already dismissed the Trump peace plan and said they will not attend the Bahrain summit, rejecting it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.

“I’m not here to be trusted,” Kushner responded when asked by Axios about Palestinian attitudes surrounding the ongoing rift with Washington, and justified the US punitive actions, saying they were in response to decisions taken by the Palestinian leadership.

Kushner said he expects the Palestinian people to not “judge anything based on trusting me,” but rather review the peace plan “based on the facts and then make a determination: Do they think this will allow them to have a pathway to a better life or not?”

“There is a difference between the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people,” he said. “With regards to the Palestinian people, I do believe that they want to have a better life.”

The administration plan has repeatedly been postponed and the collapse of Israeli coalition negotiations last week, and move to hold fresh elections in September, is widely expected to set back the launch of the plan even further.

On Monday the Washington Post published leaked remarks made by Pompeo last Tuesday in a closed-door conversation with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Pompeo said he could understand why many see the deal as one “only the Israelis could love” and said the US was also planning for failure.

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