CHICAGO: More Arab countries will “normalize” relations with Israel, US Special Envoy to the Middle East Jared Kushner predicted, strongly denouncing the Palestinians and other critics of the UAE-Israel peace deal.
In a teleconference briefing attended by Arab News on Monday, he stressed that Israel will not move forward with annexation of large parts of the West Bank without approval from US President Donald Trump, and that the UAE believes the agreement gives Palestinians “hope.”
Kushner said stopping annexation was one of the conditions the Palestinians had set in order to return to the negotiating table, and their failure to respond positively is undermining the longstanding support they have enjoyed in the Arab world.
“We’ve built a very trusting relationship with Israel. President Trump is committed to holding them (Israel) accountable, and Israel has agreed with us that they won’t move forward (with annexation) without our consent, and we don’t plan to give our consent for some time,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what proposals you put out. They (the Palestinians) have the same talking points that their attack dogs say. Quite frankly I feel the world has started to block out the noise that comes out of there because it’s so predictable and it’s so illogical.”
Kushner said Trump is “ready to engage at any time” with the Palestinians to resolve the conflict, but warned: “We aren’t going to chase the Palestinian leadership. We’ve reached out to them and said if you want to engage now, the application of Israeli sovereignty (annexation) is on hold. They said they’d come back and negotiate if that happened. That has now happened. We’ll see what they decide to do.”
Kushner said Palestinian “credibility is at an all-time low,” and this is weakening their support among many Arab countries, especially in the Gulf.
“Even people who want to help the Palestinians, those people are seeing you can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves. There’s a lot of frustration in the region with the Palestinian leadership,” he added.
“It’s because they’re either stuck in the past, or they don’t want to make peace, or maybe they have a plan that none of us could figure out. I don’t see how their current actions are leading to the Palestinian people having a better life.”
Kushner said Trump has four priorities in dealing with the Arab world: Prevent aggression and military conflict, defeat Daesh, “fighting the long-term battle against extremism” and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He said Trump has done more than others to achieve peace, citing the “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Bahrain in 2019, which committed $50 billion to the Palestinians.
But, Kushner added, Palestinian rejection of peace efforts has marginalized them among many Middle East nations.
“That plan would double their GDP (gross domestic product), create a million jobs and reduce their poverty rate by 50 percent,” he said.
“The Palestinians boycotted that conference and everyone else showed up, which really changed the narrative in the region to basically people saying, ‘what’s wrong with the Palestinian leadership?’” he added, emphasizing that Trump’s plan would result in a two-state solution.
Saying the plan can still move forward, Kushner added: “Israel has made a very generous offer for a state and for land swaps. The ball is really in the court of the Palestinians now, and obviously he (Trump) welcomes them at any time to come to the table. I think President Trump has earned the trust of his Gulf partners more so than his predecessors.”
Kushner brushed aside the Palestinian leadership’s criticism. “There’s a full offer on the table. They can have a Palestinian state. They can have self-determination. They can have dignity,” he said.
“The Al-Aqsa Mosque, that issue is fairly resolved. The king of Jordan is the custodian of the mosque. If Muslims want to come and pray, they can come and pray, so that issue is resolved at this point.”