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Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner speaking at the 'Peace to Prosperity' workshop in Bahrain. Photo: Youtube/The White House

Following the grand unveiling of its economic elements in Bahrain, Sean Ledwith picks apart Kushner's sham 'Deal of the Century'

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, this week unveiled the much-trailed ‘Deal of the Century’ he has supposedly been working on for months as a means to break the diplomatic deadlock in the Middle East. Despite a total dearth of any relevant qualifications, Kushner was tasked with solving the most intractable political dispute of the last one hundred years as part of the amorphous ‘special advisor’ role his father-in-law has generously bestowed on him. Trump somehow believed that Kushner's lack of relevant experience in fact was the best reason to give him the assignment, telling him:

"If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can."

Dismal flop

Bizarrely, the hyperbolic label appears to be derived from an underwhelming 1980s US film comedy. This is perhaps fitting as the over-hyped Kushner plan is likely to be a dismal flop as well! Speaking at the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ event in Bahrain, Kushner spoke to an audience that pointedly included no official representatives of either the Israeli or the Palestinian authorities. The former could be assured that the avowedly pro-Israeli Kushner would safeguard their interests himself, while the latter have boycotted the process in protest at last year’s US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist state.

As it turned out, his speech was conspicuously light on detail as all sides are now waiting on the outcome of another Israeli election in the autumn following an inconclusive poll last April. Even without an official response from Tel Aviv, however, it is safe to assume Kushner’s eventual plan will be welcomed by the Israeli state as its representatives and supporters in Washington have played a central role in conceiving the Deal of the Century. 

Misnomer

In contrast, not only have Palestinian voices being excluded from the process, but the whole direction of travel of the Trump administration regarding the region has been to intensify their disillusionment and suffering. Earlier this year, President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, rightly stated that the label attached to the Kushner plan was a complete misnomer and that it should instead be known as the Slap of the Century’.

The three men at the heart of the plan have unambiguously pro-Israeli credentials and can in no way be regarded as honest brokers capable of delivering a deal that might contain even a semblance of impartiality. Kushner’s family have donated millions to hospitals and schools in the Zionist state and Kushner himself has hosted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at his New Jersey home and even allowed him to sleep in his bed! At the Bahrain conference, Kushner demonstrated his total inability to grasp the historic dimensions of the conflict by naively calling on Palestinians to forget 70 years of displacement and oppression: People are letting their grandfathers’ conflict destroy their children’s futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist.

Trump triumvirate

David  Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel is a member of a pressure group that has pumped millions of dollars into illegal settlements on the West Bank and is on record as stating that the secret of Israeli security is that it is ‘on the side of God’. 

The third member of the Kushner Mid-East triumvirate is Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special advisor on Israel. Greenblatt makes no effort to hide the fact that most of his information on the region is supplied by AIPAC, the fearsomely powerful pro-Israeli lobby group that operates in Washington. As he puts it:

"I also speak to people that I would say are involved in the Israeli government at certain levels and hear their thoughts."

As a typical member of the Trump coterie, Greenblatt believes that intractable political disputes such as the Israel/Palestine situation should be approached primarily from the viewpoint of making money:

"If you take out the emotional part of it and the historical part of it, it is a business transaction." 

From Tel Aviv to Tehran

A peace plan devised by these three will inevitably be weighted with a heavy pro-Israeli bias and can have little, if anything, to offer the Palestinians. If the involvement of these three was not reason enough to doubt the credibility of the Deal of the Century, the participation of two other members of the Trump team should dispel any doubts about its real agenda. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton were both closely involved in the conception of the plan. The two ultra-hawks have made visits to Tel Aviv recently to underline Israeli’s centrality to the US ramping up of pressure on Iran. 

Bribe of the century

The sketchy details that have emerged so far confirm that the Deal will ultimately be aimed at consolidating Israeli hegemony and reducing even further the prospects of statehood for the Palestinians. At the heart of the deal is a $50 billion bribe designed to offset any opposition from the latter and to encourage them to swallow its unpalatable aspects. So far, the US government itself has not committed to provide any of this sum and, inauspiciously, neither have any of the Gulf States that Kushner is relying on to foot the bill. Senior Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, has justifiably denounced the intentions of the economic package:

"The Deal of the century is suspicious and poisonous and it is a bribe for the region by Arabs’ money to sell Palestine and Jerusalem."

Apart from the $50 billion bribe, reports suggests the Deal will confirm:

  • Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state
  • Ignore illegal settlements on the West Bank
  • No right of return for the Palestinian diaspora
  • Make Gaza the focus of a Palestinian state, rather than the West Bank, thereby ignoring UN Resolution 242 that commits a peace deal to be based on the pre-1967 borders
  • Israeli-controlled corridors to be created for Palestinian access to holy sites
  • Israel to retain security control over the Jordan Valley
  • Give Israel total control over travel between the West Bank and Gaza

Trump trigger

This slap in the face of Palestinian aspirations to self-determination is only the latest addition to the transparently pro-Israeli approach of Trump’s approach to the conflict in the two years of his administration so far. Soon after entering the White House, he egregiously recognised Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist state, knowing that such a move would inflame Palestinian opinion and trample over the widespread international view that the city needs to have shared status at least. 

Last year the US Embassy was moved to the city on the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the State of Israel. Palestinian outrage at another inflammatory act triggered the Great March of Return protests on the Gaza border that led to the deaths of over 200 people, most of them unarmed civilians shot by Israeli snipers. Also last year, the administration ended vital humanitarian relief to 5 million Palestinian refugees throughout the region by cancelling its financial commitment to the UN Relief and Works Agency. 

Trump Heights

Even some Israel security officials warned this move would have an adverse effect on the millions who depend on it. Earlier this year, Washington. Earlier this year, again in defiance of global opinion, Trump recognised the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from the Syrians after the 1967 war. Netanyahu’s recent renaming part of the strategically crucial location as Trump Heights sums up perfectly the President’s credibility as an impartial mediator in the situation. Cumulatively, these regressive actions demonstrate Trump is not even interested in the charade of a durable solution to the conflict and that the plight of the Palestinians is likely to deteriorate as long as he is in the White House.

Real deal

If Trump obviously has not commitment to a serious Middle East plan, what is the Deal of the Century really about? Apart from the obvious consolidation of America’s watchdog in the region, there are two probable motivations. Firstly, an attempt to counter Russian influence in the region, which has been strengthened by a decisive intervention on Putin’s part in the Syrian conflict. Superpower rivalry with Russia also involves a contest between the two powers over energy supplies in the region. The Chair of the US House Foreign Relations Committee recently stated that the Mediterranean gas forum project (involving Egypt, Jordan, Israel and other US allies) was an essential mechanism to reduce the alternative appeal of Russian gas:

"I think that Putin and Russia can’t and should not be able to control the situation."

The second reason motivating Trump’s intervention in the situation right now is the escalation of pressure on Iran. In the event of a conflagration involving that country, the US will need to ensure its key Sunni allies in the region; especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia are on board for a showdown with the Shia regime in Tehran. The two most prominent despots in the region, Egypt’s President Sisi and Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman were both present at Kushner’s diplomatic window dressing event in Bahrain to launch the Deal. The latter is dismissive of the legitimacy of the historic Palestinian cause and essentially told its representatives to accept the deal or else:

"It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining."

Reckless drivers

MBS and Sisi have been plotting an anti-Iranian axis in the region since their secret Red Sea summit on a luxury yacht in 2015, when the two blood-soaked dictators also agreed to back Trump in the US Presidential election the following year. Some of the most cynical and ruthless forces on the global scene are pushing the Kushner plan as a means to silence the Palestinian cause and to quash once and for all the quest for real justice in the region. All the signs so far, however, are that the Palestinians are not likely to be duped by this latest con trick. Referring to Trump, Riad Malki, foreign minister of the Palestinian commented: 

"When it comes to taking the lead on peace efforts, the world left the steering wheel in the hand of a reckless driver... with a view that we should wait till the reckless driver goes over a cliff or runs over the Palestinian people [before doing] something about it."

The Bahrain conference was also greeted with derision and a general strike in the West Bank as 3000 marched in protest, reminding Trump and his over-promoted son-in-law that they will not take the ‘slap of the century’ without massive resistance. 

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History and Politics at York College, where he is also UCU branch secretary. Sean has also written for Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, Historical MaterialismPolitical Studies Review and Reviews in History 

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