US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, accompanied by a White House team including Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and State Department official Brian Hook, began last week a Mideast tour to rally support from Arab leaders for the White House’s Mideast peace plan aimed, they said, to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli long-standing conflict.
Kushner, the plan’s main architect, made stops at Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and Morocco reportedly to address roles of each Arab country in the suggested plan and to strengthen the situation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the general elections on 17 September as the latter seeks to be the Israeli leader who oversaw Trump plan came to effect, political analysts said.
However, Kushner’s tour included no Palestinian officials.
The peace plan, which its economic component was disclosed in a US workshop in Manama, Bahrain, late June, reportedly has come into effect despite it was not officially released yet, the analysts added.
In Egypt, Kushner met with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi as the latter stressed his support for the two-state solution to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
During the meeting, Al-Sisi affirmed that any solution has to include the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the Egyptian presidency spokesperson Bassam Rady.
But the US team has kept avoiding the mention of any Palestinian statehood within their proposed plan.
Egypt repeatedly denies that it would give up parts of the Sinai Peninsula in favour of the suggested peace plan, stressing that the Sinai Peninsula is not part of the US proposal.
In Israel, Kushner sat down with Netanyahu reportedly to assure their friend that the US is doing its role perfectly ahead of Israeli elections, in support to Netanyahu’s stance in Israel among his opponents.
Kushner also met with King Abdullah II of Jordan as the monarch asserted his support for the two-state solution during the meeting, calling for a comprehensive peace for Palestinians, including an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital based on the 1967 boarders, according to Petra News Agency.
In Morocco, Kushner also met with Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Jerusalem Post reported. No official confirmation released by Morocco’s officials.
No Palestinian statehood
As the tour began, a circulating report by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth claimed on Wednesday that Kushner headed to the Middle East region to personally invite Arab leaders to attend a summit in Camp David in September before the Israeli election.
However, a senior White House official denied the report, saying that “no summit has currently been planned.” The official added that the US team will report the results of their meetings to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and US National Security Agency to discuss many potential next steps to expand upon the success of the Bahrain workshop.”
Meanwhile, David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel, said on Tuesday ahead of Kushner tour that Trump’s administration supports “Palestinian civilian self-governance.”
“We believe in Palestinian autonomy. We believe in Palestinian civilian self-governance,” Friedman said in a CNN interview.
After frequent delays, the US took a series of steps regarding its so-called “deal of the century” as it has called for an economic workshop in Manama as business delegates and government officials gathered in the Bahraini capital for the Trump’s administration-led $50bn economic “Peace to Prosperity” conference.
Kushner described his plan as “the opportunity of the century” for the Palestinians, noting that their acceptance is a pre-condition to peace.
Egypt sent an official economic delegation from the Ministry of Finance to attend the Manama conference reportedly to hear out the propositions.
Samir Ghattas, an expert in Palestinian affairs and director of the Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt that the so-called deal of century does not need to be disclosed or publicly declared anymore because it has already come into effect.
“We heard over and over about the release of the plan, but we only find frequent delays,” Ghattas continued.
This assumption shows up, Ghattas explained, in the transfer of the Israeli sovereignty on Jerusalem and the relocating of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, and in the attempts to the dismantling of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) as well as the US suspension of all funding of billion dollars for the agency.
Ghattas added that the US steps will be followed by a project to resettle the Palestinian refugees inside the countries where they are currently living, such as Jordan and Lebanon.
“This plan does not include a Palestinian state but civilian autonomy. What remains to be disclosed are minor details,” Ghattas highlighted.
On Kushner visit, Ghattas said that the tour initially aimed to discuss the roles of each Arab country in the plan, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco.
The US is pressing on Jordan to accept the aspects of the peace plan and to resettle Palestinian refugees in Jordan (estimated with more than 2 million people according to United Nations figures) which, Ghattas said, would disturb the kingdom demography system.
Jordan officially kept rejecting any peace settlement that does not include a two-state solution affirming that no Palestinian state would be created on the kingdom lands. But it faces US pressure regarding the possible transfer of its custodianship of Jerusalem to Saudi Arabia or even to Morocco, Ghattas highlighted.
The custodianship, a part of the regime’s legitimacy, of Al Aqsa and other Islamic and Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem falls directly under the Hashemite kingdom.
The Jordan-Israel peace treaty signed in 1994 recognises the role of the Hashemite kingdom in caring for the Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem.
Ghattas said that the role of Egypt is not clear yet, as Egyptian officials kept denying giving up Sinai as part of the Trump plan.
There were reports published by Reuters in June that the fund of $50bn would be spent to improve the troubled Palestinian territories over 10 years and neighbouring countries. The rest is expected to be split between Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan with about $9-10bn for Egypt, Ghattas suggested.
He noted that this fund reportedly to be spent on investment projects in the Sinai Peninsula to benefit the Palestinians living in Gaza strip.
For Palestinians, Ghattas pointed out that amid division between Fatah and Hamas movements, there is slight hope for reconciliation. “At the end, Palestinians will get the little, a self-governance that could be limited when needed. But they still maintain the right to use the Veto to stop the US plan.”
“I met Mahmoud Abbas and he told me: I will not die as a traitor. I will not accept this deal,” Ghattas concluded.
Too ambitious economic proposal
Tarek Fahmy, professor of Political Science at Cairo University, said that Kushner’s tour is an “exploratory one” to discuss the roles of each Arab country in the US peace plan and to search for other sources of funds after Manama’s workshop saw some reservations.
“The economic proposal was too ambitious and got some reservations,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt.
Fahmy suggested that the US is trying to find alternative pathways to serve its plan.
One of them could be an international conference where Trump would invite Arab leaders, and in this case, Fahmy said, no Arab country would eject such invitation, adding that this conference would not be similar to Manama workshop.
Furthermore, Fahmy believes there will not be a Palestinian state, saying that the US will put pressure on the Palestinian Authority and push for negotiations. He added the office of Palestine Liberation Organization could be reopened in Washington.
Late July, Abbas abruptly decided to suspend all agreements with Israel, without giving details on the procedures he will take to implement such decree.
The Palestinian Authority boycotted Manama conference, announcing that it will not accept any settlement which does not include establishing an independent Palestinian state on the boundaries that existed before the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Earlier, the Palestinians froze contacts with the White House after Trump’s 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital.
Kushner should wait
“The Trump team needs to have balanced relations with all Israeli actors, especially if Netanyahu could not make the math work in September to remain in his position,” Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Daily News Egypt.
He added if Kushner wants to have the best possible context to release the political part of his peace plan in Israel, he should wait until the Israeli election.
“Kushner is putting his money where his mouth is with this Middle East tour because he understands that it will take personal diplomacy with regional leaders to build support for his plan. Without the consensus of America’s best Arab partners, the entire plan in both its economic and political parts, will not succeed,” Heras highlighted.
“The Palestinians are beginning to realise that there is a quiet Arab consensus that started to emerge at least on the economic part of the plan. But what Kushner must tread carefully is how the political part of the plan rolled out, and the Arab perception of how one-sided the plan could be in favour of the Israelis,” Heras concluded.