US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser has said that Israel is not responsible for all of the suffering of the Palestinian people. Jared Kushner made his comment at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia.
"If you want to go and invest in the West Bank or Gaza," Kushner insisted, "the issue that's holding you back is the fear of terrorism and that your investment could be destroyed."
The Palestinian Authority has been suffering a serious financial crisis since February, when the Israeli parliament passed a law to withhold tax revenues from the PA over its payments of stipends to the families of Palestinians jailed by Israel or killed while carrying out attacks against the occupation. The legislation freezes part of the $130m in tax collected by Israel on behalf of the PA each month.
These cuts have hit the Palestinian territories hard; they are already suffering from an unemployment rate of around 26 per cent in the second quarter of 2019, according to the World Bank. According to France24, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's administration has had to impose austerity measures, including a cut of almost 50 per cent in the salaries of its employees.
Kushner went to Saudi Arabia after a visit to Israel, where he met both Prime Minister-designate Benny Gantz and the outgoing incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss "various regional issues including the growing Iranian security threat, regional stability and the peace process."
He also focused on the Trump administration's peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. In an interview with Israel's Channel 13 last night, Kushner said that the Trump peace plan offered Israel regional opportunities and was important for its security. Israelis and Palestinians would need to make compromises, said Kushner. It is believed widely that Trump's plan would allow Israel to retain all of its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, where some 430,000 Jewish Israeli colonist-settlers live.
In June, Kushner unveiled the economic aspects of a US Israel-Palestine peace initiative at a special conference in Bahrain. He proposed $50 billion in investment for the region if the Palestinians agree on a political deal.
Dubbed the Deal of the Century, Kushner said that over half of the funds ($28 billion) would go towards the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while $7.5 billion would go to Jordan, $9 billion to Egypt and $6 billion to Lebanon. However, the Palestinian leadership boycotted the conference, accusing Washington of ignoring key political issues and trying to buy its acceptance of Israeli rule.
From Sudan to Kuwait, prominent commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Kushner's proposals in strikingly similar terms: "colossal waste of time", "nonstarter" and "dead on arrival".