Jared Kushner, tasked with leading the US administration’s Middle East peace efforts by his father-in-law US President Donald Trump, said Thursday that a series of recent punitive measures against the Palestinians will help, not harm, the chances for a peace deal.
Speaking on the 25th anniversary of the day that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn, sealing the Oslo Accords, Kushner said the current US administration was taking vital steps toward peace that others had failed to.
“There were too many false realities that were created — that people worship — that I think needed to be changed,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “All we’re doing is dealing with things as we see them and not being scared out of doing the right thing. I think, as a result, you have a much higher chance of actually achieving a real peace.”
Since Trump took office, Washington’s stance vis-a-vis the Palestinians has dramatically changed.
Late last year, the Palestinian Authority froze all contacts with Washington after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Since the breakdown in US-Palestinian ties, the Trump administration has redoubled efforts to both punish Palestinian leaders and twist their arm so that they return to talks with Israel.
US aid has been effectively wiped out, as has its support for the UN agency that assists three million Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA.
And on Monday, Washington ordered the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in the US capital — an about-face 25 years after PLO leader Arafat was welcomed at the White House.
But despite reports that the moves have pushed the Palestinian Authority to consider cutting its last ties with the US government, including crucial security cooperation, Kushner said their anger did not negate the chances of a peace deal with Israel.
“In every negotiation I’ve ever been in,” he said, echoing his father-in-law by drawing on previous experience in real estate deals, “before somebody gets to ‘yes,’ their answer is ‘no.’”
Officials close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas were quoted by Israel’s Channel 10 news this week as saying that the American measures could lead to an upsurge of violence in the region.
“Ties between the PA and Trump have deteriorated to so unprecedented a nadir” that Ramallah is considering severing all remaining contacts, the TV report said, quoting the PA officials.
“Trump has become an enemy of the Palestinian people and an enemy of peace,” the officials were quoted by Channel 10 as saying. “The American president is encouraging terror and extremism with his policies that could lead to violence in the region, which will explode in the faces of Israel and the US.”
The Trump administration has cut all aid to the Palestinians this year with the exception of some $42 million it gave them for ongoing security cooperation efforts.
According to Kushner, that money must be conditioned on cooperation from the Palestinians.
“Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid,” he said.
Meanwhile, while Israeli officials have praised the Trump administration’s moves, Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt, said Thursday that he is prepared for Israeli criticism of elements of its coming Middle East peace plan.
“We’re going to have to defend the plan to Israelis and Palestinians. We are ready for criticism from all sides, but we believe this is the best path forward for everyone,” Greenblatt said in an interview with Reuters.
AFP contributed to this report.