Trump adviser warns Palestinians that if they continue to reject peace plan ‘the situation is just going to get worse and worse for them;’ says US won’t ‘chase’ Ramallah
By Jacob Magid – The Times of Israel
NEW YORK — Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said on Wednesday that the Trump administration’s peace plan was an attempt to “save the two state solution” because it stops Israel from further expanding its presence in the West Bank.
“The reality today is that a lot of this land is inhabited with Israelis,” Kushner told reporters during a phone briefing ahead of the White House signing next week of the Israel-UAE normalization deal.
During the call, Kushner, who was extolling the Trump administration’s efforts to reshape the Middle East, was asked about the Palestinians appearing to be left behind.
Kushner said the Trump plan presented in January this year was still on the table even though it had been rejected by the Palestinians and provides them with their best hope of stopping continued Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
“What we did with our plan was we were trying to save the two-state solution because… if we kept going with the status quo… ultimately, Israel would have eaten up all the land in the West Bank,” Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser added.
The US plan would grant the Palestinians a state with restricted sovereignty in Gaza and in parts of the West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements, the Jordan Valley and keep nearly all of East Jerusalem.
Israeli officials have in recent years moved away from supporting the two-state solution, which forms the basis of previous peace agreements, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned in recent years on a plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
Suspending the plan was one of the main conditions of the UAE normalization agreement.
Kushner said that while the Trump peace plan allows Israel to maintain roughly 30% of the West Bank, the semi-contiguous territory that remains is enough for the Palestinian Authority to turn into a state.
“And so, right now, you have a situation where there is land that could become a Palestinian state. It is possible to connect it, but the land that Israeli settlers are in right now is land that Israel controls, and the odds of them ever giving it up is unlikely,” Kushner said, adding that any plan that ignored this reality was destined to fail.
Kushner also told the Palestinians that it was up to them to come to the table to negotiate and that the US would not “chase” them, warning that if they continue to reject the plan, their situation would likely only get worse.
“My fear for the Palestinians is that if they do what they’re very good at doing, which is figure out how to not make a deal and play the victim card, then what’s going to happen is, you know, more time is going to go by and the situation is just going to get worse and worse for them,” he said.
Kushner said the Trump plan aimed to break the failed paradigms of previous peace plans. “The reason why they never accomplished anything was because both parties were getting what they wanted.
“Every time a negotiation failed, Israel took more land and the Palestinians got more money from the international community.”
On Sunday, Hebrew media reported that Defense Minister Benny Gantz is working to advance 5,000 settlement homes through various planning stages. Settler leaders claimed the government had imposed a de-facto building freeze due to regional developments, such as the normalization agreement with UAE.
That deal saw Netanyahu agree to suspend plans to annex large parts of the West Bank that the Trump plan envisioned being included in Israel. However, the premier has vowed that the compromise is temporary and that he has not removed annexation from his agenda.
Also during Wednesday’s phone briefing, Kushner boasted of his ability to have convinced the Israeli government to agree to presenting a map of the West Bank on which Jerusalem would be willing to negotiate.
“In the first meetings with [PA] President Abbas, he said, ‘If you could get Israel to agree to a map, then the rest will be easy to figure out.’ We did better than that: We got them to agree to a state with a map,” Kushner said.
Netanyahu has said he does not call what the Palestinians are being offered in the peace plan a “state,” but has no issue with the Trump administration labeling the territory as such.
The Palestinians see the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and East Jerusalem as their capital. Most of the international community supports their position, but Trump has reversed decades of US foreign policy by siding more blatantly with Israel. The centerpiece of his strategy was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American Embassy there. He’s also closed Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington and cut funding to Palestinian aid programs.