Kushner: US to present Mideast peace plan after Ramadan

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump and one of his senior advisors, will release a peace plan for the Middle East after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends in June. Kushner would not commit to a two-state solution. He said new avenues needed to be explored, adding he was taking an "unconventional" approach. He focused more on improving the economic situation of Palestinians and Israeli security.

US President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner said Tuesday he would present his long-awaited Middle East peace proposal around June and that it would include a "robust business plan" for the Palestinians.

Kushner, speaking at a forum of Time magazine, said he had hoped to offer the proposal late last year but that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called elections and still needs time to form a coalition.

"Once that's done we'll probably be in the middle of Ramadan, so we'll wait until after Ramadan and then we'll put our plan out," said Kushner, a senior advisor to Trump, referring to the Muslim fasting month which ends in early June.

Kushner's plan has already been met with deep skepticism from the Palestinians, who say Trump cannot be an honest broker after he took the landmark step of recognizing bitterly disputed Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

But Kushner, whose own role has been questioned due to his longstanding family ties with Netanyahu, said he remained hopeful that his "unconventional approach" would bear fruit.

"I think that if people focus on the old traditional talking points we will never make progress," he said.

He declined to answer if the plan would include longstanding US support for a Palestinian state, after hints by the administration that it would not, but said it would include investment to boost the Palestinian economy.

"Our focus is really on the bottom up, which is how do you make the lives of the Palestinian people better, what can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable?" he said.

"We deal with all the core status issues because you have to do it, but we've also built a robust business plan for the whole region," he added.

- 'COMPROMISES FOR BOTH' -
Kushner also said the plan would address Israel's concerns over security.

"I think that what we do is something that allows for Israel to maintain security, but there will be tough compromises for both," he said.

Netanyahu in his election campaign vowed to annex parts of the West Bank where Israeli settlers live, a prospect that would doom longstanding Palestinian hopes of a state.

The Israeli leader said Tuesday he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights after Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel's claim of sovereignty there.

Trump broke with longstanding international consensus last month when he recognized Israel's claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The decision came only two weeks ahead of the tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Netanyahu win a record fifth term in office.

The Trump administration has also cut funding that the United States had supplied to a UN agency helping Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Last year, it slashed funding to the agency by $300 million and said it would not repeat the $60 million that it did provide.

Kushner has also cultivated close personal ties with Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of his efforts to forge regional backing for his plan.

The heir to the Saudi throne has however been the focus of widespread criticism over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate.

Kushner sidestepped a question Tuesday about reports that the US intelligence services had concluded that the prince had ordered the journalist's murder.

"I'm not going to dispute American intelligence services' recommendations. I'm also not going to talk about anything intelligence related," Kushner said.

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