WASHINGTON: The US peace plan will guarantee the Muslim world access to holy sites in Jerusalem, Jared Kushner said on Wednesday, as he defended the deal as offering more than just Palestinian statehood.
Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son in law, who had a key role in preparing the plan, said the Palestinians could still negotiate aspects of the deal unveiled on Tuesday.
But he made it clear one of the deal’s priorities is to address the concerns of the larger Arab and Muslim worlds over the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Haram Al-Sharif, which Israel calls the Temple Mount.
Under the deal, the current status quo arrangement in which Jordan’s King Abdullah II is responsible for one of Islam’s most sacred sites, is set to continue.
“Israel, at America’s behest, reaffirmed and appreciates the role of the King of Jordan with regards to the Muslim holy sites and made a firm commitment saying that any Muslim who wants to come and pray at the mosque is welcome to do so,” Kushner told reporters.
“That is a very important thing to clarify in the Middle East and Islamic world, that Israel is willing now to welcome any Muslim who wants, and that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is not under attack and Jerusalem is an open city and all Muslims are welcome who want to come and pray peacefully.”
Kushner also said the peace plan undermines the propaganda narrative of militant groups like Daesh, which have used Palestinian suffering as an issue to engage in violence and terrorism.
“This offer takes away that argument from the jihadis … basically the Palestinians have an opportunity for a state and have a capital in east Jerusalem,” Kushner said.
He said the Palestinians had to show they are ready to have their own nation as the Arab world cannot afford to have another failed state in its midst.
“The Palestinians have been demanding their rights and they want a state and they have been saying this for a long time, but not everyone is entitled to a state. You have to show you are ready for a state because the Middle East has suffered when you have failed states,” Kushner said.
“You look at what’s happened in Yemen, you look at what’s happening in Syria with the civil war and in Libya. Those become vacuums for militants who then threaten people who want to live their lives peacefully. You cannot afford to have a failed state right there next to Jordan, Israel and Egypt.”
At least three Arab countries attended the Trump peace plan unveiling on Tuesday - Oman, the UAE and Bahrain. Kushner said he believes protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque is a key to winning support from other Muslim and Arab nations.
Kushner gave a stern warning to the Palestinians, saying the plan “is negotiable,” criticizing calls for “days of rage” from the Palestinian leadership.
“While this has gone on, Israel continues to take more and more land and they haven’t been interested in getting a deal done,” Kushner said.
“And then the Palestinians, they just continue to get billions of dollars of aid from a lot of countries throughout the world. They have made this an international cause. They have built a good business off of it. A lot of their leaders are rich, their friends are rich, their families are rich and they really don’t care about the people.”
Kushner said that if the Palestinians join the process, Israel will be flexible to negotiate issues and specifics of the plan. But, if they refuse, the US will move on to other priorities.
“The Palestinians over the last 25 years have not shown the capabilities that they can run themselves in a responsible way,” Kushner said.
“We created a framework that if they are interested – it is a hard work—instead of running around declaring days of rage, they have an opportunity to do it.”
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman told reporters later that nothing will change in the near future until discussions begin.
“We would like the region to be open and free with respect to religion. In Israel and a Palestinian state,” Friedman said, explaining that also means Jews would have access to the “Temple Mount.”
But he said it will only be something that will be subject to a change if there is agreement as a result of the Trump peace plan.