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Can Kushner succeed in reviving stalled peace talks?

Aug 15,2017 - Last updated at Aug 15,2017

The upcoming visit to the region later this month by Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and other top aides in the Trump administration reportedly to promote peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians should not raise anyone's hopes for a potential breakthrough. Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law, is yet to come up with solid ideas to re-launch stalled peace negotiations between the two parties. Since he was assigned this seemingly impossible task, Kushner has been mulling over ways to bring the two sides together. His last visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in June has failed to impress the Palestinians. He and Greenblatt, who is the White House's special representative for international negotiations, were described by a Palestinian official as more "like Netanyahu's advisers and not like fair arbiters."

President Trump had promised to find a solution to the 50-year-old conflict and conclude "an ultimate deal", but following his separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House earlier this year, and his visit to Israel and Bethlehem in May, the administration's position on the two-state solution, Israeli settlements and other contentious issues remained vague. Kushner himself was quoted as saying recently that he was not sure what the administration can offer that is unique.

The re-engagement by the Trump administration comes in the wake of Al Aqsa crisis last month. Kushner reportedly intervened to convince Netanyahu to reverse controversial Israeli measures in the holy city. Greenblatt was also credited for mediating a water sharing agreement between Israel and the Palestinians recently. 

The visit, which will also include Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, the UAE and Qatar, comes at a time when relations between Abbas and Netanyahu are at their worst. But both men are facing mounting internal challenges. Abbas, ailing and reportedly frustrated with the US, is battling domestic problems. He has been unable to conclude a deal with Hamas in Gaza that will restore Palestinian unity and is increasingly being pressured to name a successor. The Palestinian Authority is cash strapped and may soon lose US funding if Congress passes a law demanding that he stops monthly stipends to families of Palestinians convicted by Israel of terrorism. His Fateh movement is divided and his popularity is at its lowest point. 

Netanyahu is facing the prospect of criminal indictment on corruption charges and is fighting for his political survival. It is difficult to gauge the mood of Israeli voters if new elections are held anytime soon. But the far right parties, which reject a peace settlement with the Palestinians, continue to dominate the political arena.

Despite his lack of political experience Kushner may have already realised that a so-called ultimate deal between Netanyahu and Abbas may be impossible to reach. But he could convince both leaders to restart negotiations without offering any guarantees. Certainly, embattled Abbas is ready to cling to anything that will keep him relevant. Kushner's efforts may not lead to an eventual deal, but he will be able to demonstrate that the White House has managed to achieve a breakthrough by reviving direct talks between the two sides. 

Restarting direct talks will shift the attention to another objective which Kushner believes the conditions may be ripe for: Accelerating normalisation of relations between Arab states and Israel in order to face a common enemy: Iran. 

This is the view that Netanyahu and coalition partners embrace. Kushner's pro-Israeli positions, and his close ties to the far right, have prompted a number of Palestinian officials, most recently Hanan Ashrawi, to question Kushner's credibility as a mediator. Arab leaders meeting at the Dead Sea last March reiterated their support for the Arab Peace Initiative as it was originally presented in 2002; thus debunking rumours that it was to be amended to allow normalisation with Israel to take place before the conclusion of a final peace settlement with the Palestinians.

For the Palestinian side, the parameters for a just and lasting deal with Israel have been spelled out in the Arab Peace Initiative and during direct negotiations. Kushner and Greenblatt can do little, if anything, to change the conditions for a final status deal that can be acceptable to both sides. The most that this upcoming trip can achieve is to secure a bilateral commitment to restart direct talks. Both Netanyahu and Abbas may be ready to reengage; each for his own political benefit.

But the chasm separating the two positions has never been wider. Abbas may have bowed to the reality that the two-state option is no longer possible and that maintaining the status quo, with all its complications, does not serve long-term Israeli interests as well. Trump's readiness to live with either one-state or two-state solution may have been said impulsively and as an afterthought, but it aptly describes the possible outcome of the current impasse. Managing the conflict, by keeping the two parties engaged in yet another round of sterile talks, may be the best that Kushner can do for now.

 

 

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

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Comments

Most of us have forgotten: Palestine was divided. Transjordan and Israel were both the newly created homelands for Palestinians and the new Israelis. However, many Palestinians refused to leave the new Israeli homeland for Transjordan, and they were not removed but were allowed to stay, under security measures.
I have been watching over the years as slowly and surely the entire world, not just the Islamic world, has begun to forget what has already been divided-up! Israel is being smeared, and the World is swallowing it, hook, line and sinker!
Should this cause alarm, or a re-appraisal? No! It will only get worse, and even worse, after the 'peace treaty'.
It is obvious to any sensible, serious student of history, that we are on the threshold of The New World Order, a false world leader and the imminent return of the Faithful and True King of Kings!
Peace be upon you.
Looking up,
mSs

This is not the question to be asking. other more pertinent questions should be asked such as, "Why are only pro-Israelis/m pro-Jewish representatives sent from the US? What qualifies either of this men to mediate other than them being Jewish and pro-Israel? Also, We had a two state solution before Palestine was handed to the Jews, so why keep mentioning it like it's a new idea? And, finally, when are Zionists going to be charged with terrorism when they commit acts of terror against the Palestinian population and thereby have the US withhold any funding for the government that is responsible?

It's obvious to any sensible, serious person that the so-called peace Treaty, is only a diversion and delay tactic used by Israelis and has been so since the ink dried.

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