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Sun 24 Jun 2018 10:19 AM

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Kushner says Middle East peace plan imminent

Palestinians cut off talks with the US after Trump announced last year he would move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Kushner says Middle East peace plan imminent
Donald Trump plans to publicly release a Middle East peace plan soon even though the US has ceased communication with Palestinian leaders, the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said Sunday in an interview with a Palestinian newspaper. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Donald Trump plans to publicly release a Middle East peace plan soon even though the US has ceased communication with Palestinian leaders, the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said Sunday in an interview with a Palestinian newspaper.

“If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly,” Kushner said in the interview with Al-Quds newspaper, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kushner met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday as he completed a round of visits to Mideast leaders that didn’t include Abbas. Asked when the US peace proposal would be released Kushner said “soon.’’

“We are almost done,” he added.

The Palestinians cut off talks with the US after Trump announced last year he would move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Abbas decried the move and has since rejected meetings with top officials from Trump’s government. The Palestinians have long sought to establish the capital of a future Palestinian state in East Jerusalem.

Kushner questioned Abbas’s capacity to reach a peace deal.

“To make a deal both sides will have to take a leap and meet somewhere between their stated positions,” he said. “I am not sure President Abbas has the ability to do that.”

The Palestinian Authority has portrayed the Trump team’s peace mission as an attempt to divide and weaken the Palestinians, and on Saturday, a top Palestinian official accused the US of trying to overthrow Abbas and his limited self-rule government.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Saeb Erekat alleged that the US is “creating a state of destabilisation and confusion in the West Bank” in order to “target the leadership.”

A proposal to redirect to Gaza the tax revenue that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority is meant to sustain Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory, “while bringing down the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank,” he told Voice of Palestine radio, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Kushner declined to describe the Trump administration’s peace plan, but indicated that economic support and investments could be a key component to entice Palestinians to make a deal. He indicated the plan could be released publicly to undercut Abbas and try to generate support among the Palestinian public.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Abbas, said Kushner’s visit to the region would be “a waste of time” if Washington focused on economic support while failing to address the political issues at the core of the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel.

Kushner criticised Palestinian leaders for the poor state of the economy in the West Bank and Gaza, and said they were “scared” that the US peace plan would actually be welcomed by the Palestinian people.

“The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive towards achieving peace,” he said.

The comments come as the US becomes more isolated at the United Nations over its handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The vast majority of UN countries voted to condemn the US embassy move, and the US failed to stop a UN measure condemning Israel for “excessive use of force” against protesters at the Gaza border earlier this month.

The US officially opened its Jerusalem embassy in May with an event at which Kushner made rare public remarks.