WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner’s statement that he hopes Israel won’t annex any settlements before its March 2 election is the first sign since the release of the administration’s Middle East plan on Tuesday that he wants the plan to become the subject of actual negotiations.
It is still far from guaranteed that negotiations will start anytime soon between Israel and any of its neighbors. But if Israel were to annex all the settlements and the Jordan Valley area next week, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially promised to do, the question would be completely irrelevant. But if Kushner’s position regarding annexation – made in an interview with GZERO Media on Wednesday – proves to be the Trump administration’s policy, then negotiations are at least theoretically possible.
– Peace to Prosperity: The Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan – click to download
IN FULL: Trump’s Middle East peace plan – click to download
Kushner’s plan is unlikely to ever win the support of any Palestinian leader “as is,” because it basically offers the Palestinian side the continuation of the current reality, masquerading as a “state.” But there is still a big difference between a Kushner plan with immediate Israeli annexation of all settlements, and a Kushner plan without such annexation.
The annexation question will determine whether Kushner’s plan will become a reference point for future peace talks, or if it will become the basis for the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
– GZERO Media
.@jaredkushner: The US does not support Israel immediately annexing settlements.
More from @IanBremmer's White House interview: https://t.co/kX0pWP0KoM pic.twitter.com/TbqU1u5Da9
— GZERO Media (@gzeromedia) January 30, 2020
The fact that Kushner – the son-in-law and senior adviser of U.S. President Donald Trump – is offering the Palestinians a deal they have no reason to accept doesn’t mean they cannot, theoretically, agree to negotiate with Israel “on the basis” of his plan.
He is offering them a state on 70 percent of the West Bank, dissected by dozens of settlements and under complete Israeli military control – to the extent that Israeli soldiers would be able to patrol every street in their state and put up random roadblocks between communities. That state is one that no child would ever be able to draw in school: it looks like a collection of leftover pizza crumbs in various sizes.
Kushner’s plan also comes with a long list of conditions for the establishment of this Palestinian state. These conditions range from the unlikely – the Palestinians proving, to the Netanyahu government no less, that they can fight corruption – to the impossible: President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads a non-militarized entity, is required to demilitarize Hamas – a task that Israel, with the strongest military in the Middle East, has failed to accomplish after a decade of fighting.