Kushner’s threat to Palestine


President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince MBS (Muhammad Bin Salman) PHOTO/TRT World

Norman Finkelstein is a leading authority on the Israel-Palestine conflict. While most observers have proclaimed Jared Kushner’s ongoing ‘peace’ initiative to be dead in the water, Norman warns that it may pose a serious threat to the Palestinians. In part 1 of this interview, I spoke with him about what we can expect from the Kushner initiative going forward.

What is the end goal of the Kushner-led ‘peace’ process?

The Trump administration hasn’t demonstrated focus or consistency at the diplomatic level. But I don’t agree with all the talk that the Kushner plan is “dead on arrival”.

The prime mover behind the Kushner plan is neither Israel nor the US. It’s Saudi Arabia. Saudi covets an open alliance with the Israelis and the US. It fears the Iran axis. It’s a feudal despotism largely impotent on its own; it needs others to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. Witness the Saudi debacles in Yemen and Syria. On a more immediate level, there’s the Khashoggi affair—MBS (Muhammad Bin Salman) is desperate to be rehabilitated in Washington. If Saudi enters into an open alliance with Israel, even liberal members of Congress will forgive his “indiscretions.” So the Saudis harbor strong motives to push through the Kushner plan. The one and only obstacle to an open alliance with Israel is the Palestine Question. If they can resolve it, or appear to resolve it, then it’s clear sailing.

What do the Israelis get out of it? They’ve already gotten from Trump recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan as belonging to Israel. The Kushner plan’s political component will almost certainly include recognition of what’s called the “major settlement blocs” as belonging to Israel. That’s about 10 percent of the West Bank on the “Israeli” side of the wall. For now, Israel doesn’t want the rest of the territory because it doesn’t want all those Arabs. It will be said by Trump supporters, correctly, that the whole elite establishment in the US—liberal to conservative, Democrat to Republican—has always supported Israeli annexation of the settlement blocs.

However, recognition won’t be a huge victory for Netanyahu because the Trump regime is too eccentric. It’s possible that if Trump is defeated in 2020, the Democratic president will resume the status quo ante and pretend the Trump years never happened. Then we’d be back to Jerusalem, the Golan, and the settlement blocs having the same status as in prior US administrations.

What would be a huge victory for Netanyahu would be an open alliance with Saudi Arabia. It would spell the official end of the Arab League. One of the core unifying elements of the Arab League was opposition to Israel. The Gulf states will realign with Israel, alongside Egypt and Jordan. Israel’s biggest diplomatic victories in the Arab world were Camp David, 1978 (Egypt’s defection from the “Arab Front”), and Oslo, 1993 (the PLO’s de facto collaboration with the US and Israel). A Saudi-Gulf open realignment would be Israel’s third big diplomatic victory.

What does the United States stand to gain from this?

The US motive has actually not been disguised. You have to pay attention to the language; they call it the “Deal of the Century”. Trump, Jared and Ivanka are business people. They don’t really care about politics per se, except as a vehicle for personal enrichment. They just want to cut deals. Jared sees the Gulf as chock full of real estate deals. It could become his playground literally for life as MBS, Saudi’s ruler for life, would be indebted to Jared for life.

The Palestinians don’t have many options. In the case of Gaza, the leadership has to show something for all the suffering in the Great March of Return. The Saudis will be able to offer them, alongside desperately needed funds, a partial lifting of the blockade. Israel would probably go along with it.

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