Kushner’s plan is worth trying

While the PM is likely to be reelected, his biggest blind-spot remains the issue of the Palestinian issue, on which he takes little to no action.

By AHMED CHARAI
September 3, 2019 16:34
4 minute read.
Kushner’s plan is worth trying

WHITE HOUSE senior adviser Jared Kushner gives a speech at the opening of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ conference in Manama. (photo credit: REUTERS)

It must be admitted that, despite the many bullets of criticism fired against Benyamin Netanyahu, in Israel and across the region, the Israeli prime minister remains a “survivor” – a masterful political operator who has shaped the past two decades of the Jewish state and perhaps its future as well. Yet his greatest weakness remains his failure to engage the Palestinians in a genuine bid for peace.

After another electoral victory in April, Netanyahu failed to put together a parliamentary majority after his longtime ally Avigdor Liberman, representing a political party largely composed of Russian-speaking Jews, split from his coalition. This meant another election.

Netanyahu has succeeded in atomizing his opposition. The Labor Party now represents only a small fraction of the Israeli electorate. It is no longer a serious force in the Knesset. The Blue and White Party, led by three generals, is described by many policymakers in Israel as a party which has no real ideological coherence and no clear proposal on peace. Still, it will collect many anti-Netanyahu votes.

Bibi may even offer to include Blue and White in his governing coalition. If it agrees, it would no longer be an alternative to Netanyahu. Israeli politics is a unique kaleidoscope, and all combinations are possible. The Left ruled with religious parties; the Likud with secular parties – and even with Druze and the Arab-majority faction Hadash-Ta’al.

Netanyahu has legal problems relating to allegations of corruption. Yet the attorney-general is moving slowly. There is little chance of the prime minister being formally charged before the elections are over. It seems likely that his supporters will remain loyal, thereby delivering Likud a similar share of the vote.

So, by all accounts, the current Israeli prime minister is likely to returned to office.
Still, Netanyahu’s greatest weakness is the peace process. He has no public plan for coming to a final resolution with the Palestinians, or even a plausible outline of next steps.

He enjoys the Trump era, which has given him many political gifts. The US administration transferred its embassy to Jerusalem and acknowledged Israel’s annexation of the Golan. Netanyahu makes an argument about it; he prides himself on what he calls his “historic diplomatic successes.” Except that the Palestinian problem remains and will have to be answered in the interest of Israel and its future generations.

For decades, policy makers have focused on a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This approach brought us the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, giving Palestinians over 90% of the land and water they said they wanted as well as a guarantee of security. Yet, Yasser Arafat, weakened by the emergence of Hamas and fratricidal struggles within the Fatah Party, left him ill-disposed to seize this historic opportunity. Arafat refused to give in on the Palestinian’s “right of return.” Israel also refused to budge on it, since it would mean that the Israelis would soon become a minority in their own state. The peace process has been in limbo ever since.

JARED KUSHNER, Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser, aims to resurrect the peace process with a simple, new idea: both young Israelis and Palestinians want jobs, safety and hope.

Kushner wants to ramp up economic growth to foster a climate of confidence conducive to a successive series of steps to peace. It is a new approach, since it rejects the notion of settling all outstanding issues in one grand bargain.

Two of the protagonists rejected Kushner’s idea before it was even unveiled at his Bahrain conference: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Jordan’s monarchy is paralyzed by internal crosscurrents; it can take no diplomatic risks. Islamist movements thrive amid joblessness while Syrian refugees are an unmanageable burden for this small country. Jordan’s king still has religious responsibility for the Muslim holy places of Jerusalem. Jordan itself needs economic growth before it can play a constructive role in diplomacy.

As for the PA, it is too ill to treat the maladies of others. Elections have been postponed for 12 years after the Hamas coup in Gaza. Credible corruption charges are numerous. It cannot effectively police or even clean its streets. PA President Mahmoud Abbas cannot heal the fractures among his movement. Worse of all, Palestinian leaders have not dispensed with obsolete ideological visions and have not offered new alternatives to their youth.
At the Bahrain conference, former British prime minister Tony Blair had essentially supported Kushner’s plan, adding that a political agreement, without economic vision and an international commitment to boost the living standards of Palestinians, will fail. While he stressed that he remained committed to a two-state solution, Blair said that this will only happen “when economics and politics are right.”

Kushner’s plan is worth trying. No one else is making a serious effort to better the lives of Palestinians. And Netanyahu should get on board, before he misses an historic opportunity.

The writer, a Moroccan publisher, is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council and an international counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Ahmed Charai, a Moroccan publisher, is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council and an international counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

 


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