President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has expressed hesitancy at the ability of the US to broker a near-term comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
In a conversation with congressional aides on Monday, which was supposed to be off-the-record but was recorded and leaked to the website Wired, Kushner said that “there may be no solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“You have some people who don’t want to see and achieve an outcome of peace,” he remarked. “And people sometimes thrive in the chaos... and there may be no solution.”
Ya think? You mean that Trump isn’t going to be able to preside over a grand end-of-conflict treaty-signing extravaganza in Washington, on a stage decorated with gold-edged Roman-style pillars and graced by world leaders in rapture?
You mean that Palestinian lions aren’t about to lie down with Israeli lambs, and sing in prayer to God together on the Temple Mount? Not this year?
What happened to the “great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East” that Trump gushed about when he visited here in May? After all, we were told by Trump that Arab-Israeli peace was something that “frankly, maybe, is not as difficult as people have thought over the years. We will get it done!”
And Trump had an ace up his sleeve: the exceptionally capable Jared Kushner. “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” he declared to and about Kushner at a public event in January.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Already.
KUSHNER’S CAUTION and realism is actually refreshing. It apparently comes from the realization that there is an enormous gap between Israelis and Palestinians in their readiness for peace.
It is just not true that the two peoples are equally ready to accept one other and to compromise with each other. It is not true that both sides are ready to make difficult sacrifices for peace.
The Palestinians are light-years away from being ready to settle amicably with Israel, whereas Israelis are desperately eager to cut a fair deal with the Palestinians.
This asymmetry cuts to the core of the conflict, and explains why Palestinian Authority leaders have religiously reused to reenter direct and unconditional peace talks with Israel over the past 10 years. They know that in real peace talks they too would have to compromise, and they know that neither they nor their constituency is ready to do so.
Undoubtedly, Jared Kushner could not help but notice that Mahmoud Abbas is old, sick, tired and increasingly antagonistic. Kushner could not help but observe that Abbas’s thuggish underlings are primarily preoccupied with aggressive jockeying for pole position in the battle to succeed Abbas as West Bank despot. Kushner could not help but sense that Hamas and the other Islamist movements smell blood in the water.
Kushner could not help but note that Abbas’s regime is viewed as utterly corrupt by 95.5% of Palestinians (according to a recent Palestinian poll). The tens of billions of dollars in international aid Abbas has ingested have failed to build any real institutional basis for good or democratic Palestinian government.
And surely Kushner discerned that on the diplomatic front, Abbas has left scorched earth. Abbas has adopted maximalist-extremist positions, stoked hatred of Jews and violence against Israelis, venerated terrorists, and pushed the criminalization of Israel internationally. He denies Jewish history and Zionist legitimacy in Zion. He is wedded to a Palestinian narrative of victimization.
And yet, the Obama administration and much of the global community for years nonsensically considered Abbas and his associates as partners for a two-state peace arrangement. Kudos to Kushner for figuring out, relatively quickly, that sadly this is not the case.
WHAT KUSHNER and the world policy community ought to be doing is helping to close the “peace gap.” By this I mean helping Palestinian leaders bring their own constituency toward the levels of moderation and willingness to compromise that Israeli leaders have successfully achieved in Israel.
Consider the following: As the result of an intensive political-educational process, Israelis have shifted their views tremendously over the past 30 years. They’ve gone from denying the existence of a Palestinian people to recognition of Palestinian peoplehood and national aspirations; and from insisting on exclusive Israeli sovereignty and control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza to acceptance of a demilitarized and peaceful Palestinian government in these areas.
Israel has withdrawn all-together from Gaza, and allowed Fatah to assume authority over 95% of West Bank residents. And going a gargantuan step too far, Israel has made the Palestinian Authority three outrageously generous offers for full-fledged Palestinian statehood over more than 90% of the territory of the West Bank; proposals that were rejected by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.
By contrast, the Palestinians have failed to meaningfully move themselves toward peace with Israel. Many Palestinian political and religious figures still deny the historic ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and refuse to accept the legitimacy of Israel’s existence in the Middle East as a Jewish state. They continue to demand the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in pre-1967 Israel as a way of swamping and destroying the Jewish state.
They support and glorify Palestinian suicide- bombers, missile launchers, shooters and stabbers against Israel’s civilian population, including the bludgeoning to death of grandparents, pregnant Jewish mothers and babies in their homes.
The Palestinian airwaves and newspapers are filled with viciously antisemitic and bloodthirsty propaganda. Palestinian leaders crisscross the globe and lobby every international institution to condemn, vilify, criminalize and isolate Israel.
Then they fulminate about “filthy Jewish feet” on the Temple Mount and threaten all-out war if Israel acts to secure the site against terrorism.
So what is now needed is an intensive and sustained peace education plan in the PA-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The hearts and minds of average Palestinians have to be prepared for peace through a completely different set of messages.
Adopting the Taylor Force Act, without any wishy-washy waivers, would be a good place for the US to start in pushing the PA to reset its schema.
Kushner has his work cut out for him, even though it won’t quickly make America great again or swiftly secure a Nobel Prize for his father-in-law.