In a comprehensive dialogue with Al-Quds (Jerusalem) editor Walid Abu Zuluf, President Trump’s envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner stated: he was ready to resume talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas—whom Kushner believes is committed to peace—if Abbas is ready.
Kushner noted that the Arab leaders he had met on his Middle East tour “made it clear that they want to see a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. They should have the same economic opportunities as citizens of their own countries, and deserve a deal that respects the dignity of the Palestinians.”
Kushner said “the actual deal points are between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but the economic plan we are working on can show what comes as part of a deal when it is achieved with some huge investments that extend to the Jordanian and Egyptian peoples as well.”
“You deserve to have a bright future,” Kushner said to Abu Zuluf, “Now is the time for both Israelis and Palestinians to strengthen and refocus their leadership, to encourage them to be open to a solution and not to fear the attempt. Over the years, you, the Palestinian people, have paid the price. Now show your leadership that you support efforts to achieve peace, let them know your priorities and give them the courage to maintain an open mind towards achieving them.”
Abu Zuluf asked, “What are the most important points in the opinion of the Arab leaders that should be in the peace plan?”
Kushner: “They have made it clear that they want to see a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. They want an agreement that will enable the Palestinian people to live in peace and to have the same economic opportunities as the citizens of their own countries. They want to see a deal that respects the dignity of the Palestinians and provides a realistic solution to the issues that have been discussed for decades. They all insist that the Al-Aqsa Mosque should remain open to all Muslims who wish to pray there.”
Somebody tell the Jewish Temple Organizations Shiites have been accepted.
Abu Zuluf: “Does the deal you work on include these points?”
Kushner: “I don’t want to talk about the details of the deal we are working on, but as I said in my talks in Jerusalem, I believe that in order to reach an agreement, both sides will gain more than they give and will feel confident that the lives of their people will be the best in decades. It will be up to the leadership and the people of both parties to determine what is acceptable as a compromise for big gains.”
Abu Zuluf: “You mentioned that it was ‘in the hands of the people.’ Do you mean that the plan can be put to the vote of the people?”
Kushner: “I did not say that, but this is something the leadership of both sides must think about. This may be a way to face the least political risk of endorsing the solution, but that is still a few steps ahead of where we are.”
Abu Zuluf: “This conflict has been going on for a long time, and many have tried to offer solutions to what seems like an intractable problem – how is your approach different?”
Kushner: “We have done a lot of listening and spent our time focusing on the people and trying to determine what they really want. In the end, I think the Palestinian people are less interested in the points of dialogue between politicians and more interested in how this deal will provide them and future generations with new opportunities, more jobs with better wages and prospects for a better life. Each of the political issues is controversial and there are people on both sides of the Israeli and Palestinian sides who will oppose any compromise. We think both sides should look at the deal as a package and ask themselves: Are we better off with what we get compared to what we offer?
“Not everyone agrees that it is the right package, but reaching peace requires courage and the need to take the right calculated risks. Without pushing the political people to focus on the needs and giving them the courage to take the chances, this will never be resolved.”
Abu Zuluf: “What do you say about the recent statements made by Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, that your trip is ‘a waste of time and will be doomed to failure?'”
Kushner: “I think the Palestinian leadership is saying these things because of its fear that we will publish our peace plan and the Palestinian people will admire it because it will lead to new opportunities to achieve a much better life.”
Abu Zuluf: “What does the ‘economic boom’ look like for the Palestinian people?”
Kushner :Think about the prospects of the Palestinian people over the next five to twenty years if they get huge investments in modern infrastructure, vocational training and economic stimulus. The world is undergoing technological industrial revolutions, and the Palestinian people can benefit and leap forward to become leaders of the next industrial age. The Palestinian people are diligent and well educated and able to join the Silicon Valley of the Middle East – Israel. The prosperity of Israel will quickly spread to the Palestinians if there is peace. Many countries from all over the world are willing to invest if there is a peace agreement. I strongly believe that when you want to reach a peace agreement, you need to define secure borders and make them economically safe. You want to remove borders and allow economies to become more integrated to increase opportunities and prosperity for all people – including Jordanians, Egyptians and others.”
Abu Zuluf: “I know you recently hosted a conference on Gaza in the White House. Has anything come of it? What do you do to make this situation better while we all watch it deteriorate before our eyes?”
Kushner: “Well, what is happening in Gaza is very sad. The humanitarian situation began long before President Trump came to power, but we must try to make improvements. The level of despair shows the worst scenario for what happens when these problems are left unresolved and allowed to continue. The people of Gaza are hostages of a bad leadership. Their economy has collapsed because of their inability to communicate with the world. As long as there are rockets fired and terror tunnels, there will be strangulation of the resources allowed. It is a vicious circle.
“I think the only way for the people of Gaza is to encourage the leadership to seek a real ceasefire that gives Israel and Egypt the confidence to start allowing more trade and goods to flow into Gaza. This is the only way to solve the problem through what I have seen.
“Many countries will be willing to invest in Gaza if there is a real possibility for another road. It will take some leadership in Gaza to get there.”
Abu Zuluf: “You clearly are very focused on improving the economic circumstances of the Palestinian people – what about the traditional core issues?”
Kushner: “The traditional core issues are essential and we focus on them intensively with a strong appreciation of the historical differences between the two sides. We are committed to finding a package of solutions that both sides can live with. [But] simply resolving core issues without creating a pathway to a better life will not lead to a durable solution.”