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Worst time’: Kushner in Israel ahead of Manama conference

Kushner visits Israel to discuss Israel-Palestine peace plan with Netanyahu who failed to form coalition government.5 days ago

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is in Israel ahead of the Bahrain conference [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is in Israel ahead of the Bahrain conference [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

US President Donald Trump‘s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is in Israel for the final leg of another Middle East tour before the scheduled meeting in the Bahraini capital of Manama where the economic aspect of the much-talked-about Israel-Palestine plan will finally be unveiled.

The “workshop” in Manama being organised as part of the so-called “deal of the century” pushed by the Trump administration will not discuss the political aspects of the conflict, and instead will seek to encourage investment in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Palestinian leadership, which has criticised the peace proposal, was not consulted about the Manama conference, which is not expected to address the core political issues of the conflict: final borders, the status of Jerusalem, or the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said last week that “any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political … and based on ending the occupation.”

Political analyst Hani al-Masri said Kushner came at “the worst time” with Knesset dissolved following the failure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government before Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

“The call for renewed Israeli elections in September means that the deal will be put on hold for another few months, aggravating the situation,” Masri told Al Jazeera, speaking from the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

Al Jazeera correspondent Harry Fawcett, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that the uncertainty in Israeli politics has “certainly complicated things”.

“He [Kushner] may have expected to come here to speak to Netanyahu on the day that he’d confirmed his government but now, of course, that isn’t the case,” he said.

Cut off relations with the US

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs occupied West Bank, cut off relations with the United States last year accusing it of having a thoroughly biased relationship with Israel.

“The Palestinian Authority will be at risk of a breakdown because the tax revenues that are usually withheld by Israel were supposed to be released to the PA after the formation of the new Israeli government,” Masri said.

Masri said Kushner’s latest visit is an attempt to salvage the Manama summit, especially after a “general consensus from the Palestinian side – the government, civil society, and private sector – who expressed their rejection and non-participation.”

Along with Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, Kushner visited Morocco on Tuesday and Jordan on Wednesday in order to secure the two countries’ backing and participation in the Bahrain summit.

Two-state solution

Morocco and Jordan, however, fell short of stating whether they will attend. The Jordanian Royal Court issued a statement after the delegation meeting, in which King Abdullah “stressed the need to step up all efforts to achieve comprehensive and lasting peace on the basis of the two-state solution”.

The two-state solution, based on United Nations resolutions, calls for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel on the 1967 borders, with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.

But Kushner hinted that the plan will not propose two states for Israelis and Palestinians – for decades the US-backed goal in marathon peace talks.

The Bahrain gathering is expected to bring together leaders from several governments, civil society and the business sector.

The only Arab states to confirm their presence for the Manama conference, which is scheduled for June 25-26, are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The Al Jazeera correspondent said that “the US administration had already put off the plan, the political part of the plan, in accordance with the unexpectedly early Israeli elections called in April. Will they have to do that again?”

“If they do, then we start getting into the US election season ahead of the 2020 election.

“In any case, Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinians, is saying the deal of the century now looks like it might be the deal of next century,” he said.

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