JERUSALEM — Top White House adviser Jared Kushner said Monday that the Palestinian leadership’s credibility has fallen to an “all-time low” and that the Trump administration wouldn’t “chase” the Palestinians over a peace deal if they continue to reject American overtures.
Kushner delivered his assessment in a conference call discussing last week's U.S.-brokered agreement forming official diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking to reporters from the Middle East, Kushner said there was rising frustration in the region over what he said was the Palestinians' obstruction of their people's advancement.
“We’re not going to chase the Palestinian leadership,” Kushner said. “Their credibility is just really falling to an all-time low and even people who want to help the Palestinians, those people are just saying that you can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves.”
The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority severed ties with the White House after President Donald Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December 2017. The Palestinians have rejected Trump's Mideast plan released early this year, which heavily favors Israel, as being unfairly biased. The Palestinians condemned the UAE's agreement with Israel last week as a betrayal of their cause.
In particularly harsh terms, Kushner said the world was “starting to block out the noise” coming from Palestinian officials, calling their responses “just so predictable and illogical.”
Last week's deal makes the United Arab Emirates just the third Arab country to agree to normalize relations with Israel. The UAE's move shattered a longstanding Arab consensus that official rapprochement with Israel should come only after concessions were made in peacemaking with the Palestinians. That wall of Arab support had long served as one of the Palestinians' few points of leverage against Israel.
Kushner said the Trump administration had been repeatedly rebuffed by the Palestinians despite numerous attempts to try to ameliorate their conditions. He cited a regional economic conference held last year meant to raise funds to better the Palestinian economy, as well as Trump's Mideast plan, which he said gave the Palestinians “most of what they've ever wanted."
Despite his claims, the plan falls far short of Palestinian demands for an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip — territories captured by Israel in 1967.
The plan envisions giving Israel permanent control over 30% of the West Bank while allowing the Palestinians limited autonomy in the remainder of the territory if they meet a list of stringent demands. Nearly all of east Jerusalem, including its sensitive holy sites, would remain under Israeli control.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, blamed the Trump administration, saying its “negativity” in dealing with the Palestinians “is what brought matters to this impasse.” He said the Palestinians were ready to negotiate based on the international consensus calling for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.
As part of the UAE deal, Israel agreed to put on hold its plans to annex parts of the West Bank. But the sides' interpretation of what that meant appeared to differ, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the move was on “temporary hold” following a request by the Trump administration, and the UAE indicating it was entirely off the table.
Kushner said he believed the agreement to put off annexation “will hold.”
“(Netanyahu) has given us assurances that he will not do it without our consent and that’s good enough for us,” he said.