President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner has “disqualified himself” from overseeing US Middle East peace efforts because he has adopted Israel’s positions in the dispute, PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Thursday.
She also castigated Kushner for voicing doubts about whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved.
“Of course he’s not qualified because he disqualifies himself,” Ashrawi told The Jerusalem Post two days after a private talk Kushner gave in Washington was leaked.
In the talk, Kushner agreed with the Israeli view that the recent Temple Mount crisis was a result of Palestinian incitement. He said the history of the conflict should not be focused on and mused that “there may be no solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
“His talk was really problematic. It betrays not just deep bias but a lack of knowledge of the history itself and therefore of the needs and requirements for a solution,” Ashrawi said.
There have been previous anonymous Palestinian rumblings against Kushner, particularly after he was perceived as taking the Israeli side during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month. But Ashrawi’s comments bring the tensions over Trump’s son-in-law’s foray into Middle East peacemaking into the open and place the Palestinian grievances on the record.
“If you don’t know the significance of the holy places and the fact that Israel is changing not just the status quo but religious responsibility there, and you don’t know the impact of offending people’s spiritual commitments and feelings, then you don’t know anything about the solution itself,” Ashrawi said.
“There are two things you cannot do if you want to have a real solution,” she added.
“Firstly, you cannot approach things with a negative attitude that maybe it can’t be done. You need a very positive and determined attitude. Secondly, you can’t approach this having wholeheartedly adopted the position of one party in violation of international law and the rights of the other party. These are two things that preclude achieving any kind of solution. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that we are so pro-Israeli we are going to take Israel’s side. Israel is the occupying power, enslaving another people, acting outside the law and you cannot say there is no solution. If so, why even try?”
Asked whether Kushner is qualified to be the American point man on Middle East peace, Ashrawi said: “The facts speak for themselves. Look at his statements, attitude, long-standing friendship with Netanyahu and his family, and his ideological language when it comes to Israel-Palestine. He demonstrates clearly where he stands. Of course he’s not qualified because he disqualifies himself.”
In his speech, Kushner stressed the importance of not being bogged down in the history of the conflict. He said: “Everyone finds an issue that ‘you have to understand what they did then’ and ‘you have to understand that they did this.’ But how does that help us get peace? Let’s not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on how do you come up with a conclusion to the situation.”
Ashrawi termed Kushner’s approach “ridiculous.”
“If he wants to move ahead to the future, he has to understand that we have a culture, a history, a reality, a presence on Palestinian land for centuries. Israel was created in 1948. This is history. It occupied another 22% of the land in 1967. This is history. And if we ignore that we have no tools to resolve the conflict or achieve any kind of solution for the future.”
Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who supports Abbas, also said Kushner “is not fit to be a mediator in a peacemaking process.”
Of Kushner’s speech, Abdullah said: “He was raised in an extreme Zionist narrative, so you can’t expect him to know anything better. He doesn’t know the other side of the story. And if you want to mediate you must be objective, neutral, and listen to and absorb both narratives. He has only one narrative and it’s not easy to feed him with a new one.”
But Abdullah stressed that the real problem from the Palestinian perspective is Trump.
“Do you think Trump is better than Kushner in understanding there are two narratives? Trump until this moment did not say one word against the illegal settlements, while every administration before him condemned them. And he hasn’t uttered the words two-state solution. Both are new to the political scene. Both need to read more and be more open,” Abdullah said.
“If the Americans believe in terms of reference entrenched in international law and UN resolutions, and see the end goal as ending occupation and establishing a Palestinian state, we are ready to help them,” Abdullah added. “But if they leave it to the Israeli government to determine the outcome, it’s a non-starter. Thus far that’s what they are doing.”