Jared Kushner on Jordan Valley Annexation: We like to keep our options open

Arab nations reject any Trump Israeli-Palestinian plan not on ‘67 lines

White House adviser Jared Kushner at the "2019 Prison Reform Summit" in the East Room of the White House in Washington (photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)
White House adviser Jared Kushner at the "2019 Prison Reform Summit" in the East Room of the White House in Washington
(photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)
US special envoy Jared Kushner has not rejected outright Israel’s annexation plan for the Jordan Valley, stating instead that the Trump Administration would like to keep its “options open.”
He spoke of the Jordan Valley and US President Donald Trump’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during an interview with Channel 13 while visiting Israel this week, prior to his departure for Saudi Arabia.
The US has delayed the long anticipated publication of its plan, known as the “Deal of the Century,” preferring to publish it after an Israeli government is formed.
“We have a real desire to put out the plan,” Kushner said, adding however that the timing of its release is based on what Trump believes is the “best opportunity to further America’s interests and also to help his allies.”
When asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley should he retain his post as the head of Israel’s government, Kushner acknowledged that the Jordan Valley was a strategic asset for Israel.
“We understand how essential the Jordan Valley is to Israel’s security, and obviously that is something that we are going to take into consideration,” said Kushner who is in charge of authoring the plan. “One of the things that this administration prides itself on is being in a position where we really respect and understand Israel’s security needs.”
The plan focuses on “what we think is essential to secure Israel’s future,” Kushner added.
“If there is an actual proposal [for annexation] that is put forward, we will look at it and we will have discussions,” Kushner said. “Our hope is that after there is [an Israeli] government formation, we will be able to look at the full comprehensive picture of what we would like to see. It includes compromises from both sides, but also a lot opportunities for both sides to move forward.”
Channel 13 pressed him again on whether the US had ruled out some sort of annexation in the Jordan Valley.
Kushner responded: “We like to keep our options open: that is the Trumpian way.”
Kushner was similarly vague on the question of whether the plan supports a two-state solution. The Trump administration has been loath to use that phrase and has hesitated to speak of a Palestinian state.
“The plan is more of an operational document that describes a lot of the technical details for how the two sides can coexist in I believe the most functional way possible,” Kushner said. “One of the things that has held back the process for a long time is people use terms like two-state solution, which have different meanings to different people, and as a result I believe that is why things have failed.”
With regard to the overall plan, the US envoy did not offer more details, but said he believed that changes in the region offered opportunities for Israel and the Palestinians.
“You have a different sentiment in the region of countries that want to do a lot of business with Israel economically. There is a lot of desire to do military partnerships with Israel,” said Kushner.
But he noted that Israel can only take advantage of such sentiment if it has a government.
“Having peace with the Palestinians is a critical step if [Israel wants] to have long-term security in the region,” he said.
Under the terms of the plan, both Israelis and Palestinians would need to make compromises, Kushner said, giving no more specifics during the interview.
In New York on Monday, United Nations Security Council member states and non-member states struck a different tone and dismissed the Trump administration’s approach to peacemaking.
UNSC members France and the UK warned Israel against any annexation efforts.
“I would also reiterate here the United Kingdom’s position that annexation of any part of the West Bank would be destructive to peace efforts and could not pass unchallenged. Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law,” UK Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Allen said.
Arab nations rejected any Israeli-Palestinian peace plan not based on the pre-1967 lines. One Arab country after the other alluded to the plan, as they made statements in support of a two-state solution, which rests in part on the regional support of moderate Arab nations.
Earlier this year, Kushner stated that the plan would part from past initiatives, including the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, endorse by the Arab League. It offered Israel normalized ties in exchange for a two-state solutions at the 1967 lines with minimal, undefined territorial swaps.
It is widely believed that Trump’s plan would allow Israel to retain all of its West Bank settlements, where some 430,000 of its citizens live.
At the UNSC, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation all spoke of the importance of a two-state solution at the ‘67 line, and of a peace plan that would fall in line with past international understandings. All of Israel’s government since the Six Day War have rejected a return to the pre-1967 lines, which were considered to be suicidal borders.
Saudi Ambassador to the UN Abdullah al-Mouallimi told the council that the Palestinian people were suffering under one of the most “heinous forms of occupation in our modern history.”
“We believe that the Palestinian question is the key for the stability of the region. Any solution must be based on the two-state solution in line with international terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which calls for establishing a Palestinian state with the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital,” Mouallimi said.
Bahraini ambassador Jamal Fares Alrowaiei similarly told the UNSC that his country also favored a solution based on the pre-1967 lines.
In June, his country hosted a US-led economic workshop that focused on financial solutions for the Palestinians.
On Monday, Alrowaiei said that, “a just comprehensive and lasting peace in the region cannot be achieved without resolving the Palestinian question and without granting the Palestinian people its legitimate right, similarly to other peoples, to establish its independent state along the borders of 1967 with east Jerusalem as capital, in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and relative international solutions.”
The “kingdom will spare no effort to ensure the development and the prosperity of the Palestinian people,” the ambassador said, adding that “the international community must also assume its responsibilities and compel Israel to implement all relevant international resolution.”