Kushner Says Punishing Palestinians Won’t Hurt Chance for Peace Deal

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Punishing Palestinians Won’t Hurt

WASHINGTON — Three days after the Trump administration evicted the Palestine Liberation Organization from its offices in Washington, Jared Kushner defended the latest in a string of punitive actions against the Palestinians and insisted that none of them had diminished the chances of a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking on Thursday, 25 years to the day after the Oslo peace accords were signed on the White House lawn not far from his West Wing office, Mr. Kushner said President Trump had actually improved the chances for peace by stripping away the “false realities” that surround Middle East peacemaking.

“There were too many false realities that were created — that people worship — that I think needed to be changed,” he said in an interview. “All we’re doing is dealing with things as we see them and not being scared out of doing the right thing. I think, as a result, you have a much higher chance of actually achieving a real peace.”

Mr. Kushner said he did not want to be too critical of the Oslo accords, which created the framework for peace negotiations over the last three decades. But he cast his own efforts as a radical break with the past, evincing little nostalgia for the historic images of Bill Clinton drawing together Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin in September 1993.

His confidence came at a bleak moment in his own 19-month-old quest for an accord. The order to shut down the P.L.O. office followed a series of cuts in American funding to Palestinian groups, as well as the decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, all of which have profoundly alienated the Palestinians from the administration.

Mr. Kushner said the Jerusalem decision burnished Mr. Trump’s credibility by delivering on a campaign promise. Palestinian leaders, he said, deserved to lose aid after vilifying the administration. And much of the money that the United States poured into the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and other Palestinian causes had been misspent anyway.

“Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid,” he said.

Aid should be used to further national interests and help those in need, he said. In the case of the Palestinians, he argued that the funding had evolved into a decades-long entitlement program with no plan to make them self-reliant.

Still, Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, also insisted that the rift between the Palestinians and Washington was not unbridgeable, despite statements by top Palestinian officials that they will never again engage with Mr. Trump.

“In every negotiation I’ve ever been in,” he said, “before somebody gets to ‘yes,’ their answer is ‘no.’”

Citing his experience as a dealmaker, Mr. Kushner said he was not thrown by the posturing of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, which he attributed in part to Mr. Abbas’s own domestic politics. If Mr. Abbas is a serious leader, Mr. Kushner said, he will study the administration’s peace plan carefully after it is released.

Mr. Kushner and his partner on the Middle East, Jason D. Greenblatt, continue to tinker with the language in the plan, which is all but finished. They have expanded the team working on the project, in part to focus on fortifying the economic component — a particular focus of Mr. Kushner’s.

With the Palestinians dismissing the plan as “dead on arrival,” some analysts question whether it will ever see the light of day. Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt reject that, saying they are busy consulting with officials in the region. They are not giving a timetable, though it seems unlikely they would roll it out before the midterm elections.

The White House once hoped that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Mr. Kushner has cultivated a relationship, would be an influential advocate for the plan. But with Prince Mohammed struggling with his reform efforts at home, the administration is no longer counting on him to play that role.

For now, the administration’s focus has been on punishing the Palestinians. On Monday, the State Department said it had agreed late last year to allow the P.L.O.’s representative office to stay open only if it helped advance peace negotiations.

“However, the P.L.O. has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” it said in a statement. “To the contrary, P.L.O. leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

The administration also linked its decision to what it said were efforts by the Palestinians to get the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for its military operations in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the construction of Jewish settlements in Israel-occupied territory.

“While the court welcomes the membership of the so-called State of Palestine, it has threatened Israel — a liberal, democratic nation,” John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said in a speech on Monday castigating the court.

Some analysts warn that stripping funds from the United Nations organization that takes care of Palestinian refugees will only contribute to the extremism of future generations of Palestinians, since it is the main supplier of secular education to children there.

Cutting $25 million in aid to six hospitals in East Jerusalem that serve Palestinians could prompt a health crisis, according to experts. The Palestinian Authority condemned the move as an “act of political blackmail.” And it could boomerang on Israel, since it could be forced to step into the breach and provide more services in the West Bank.

“By punishing the Palestinians, the administration unwittingly is liberating them from former restraints under which they had operated since Oslo in order to placate U.S. and Israel,” said Robert Malley, who took part in Israeli-Palestinian talks at Camp David under Mr. Clinton.

“What gradually removing those shackles from Palestinians will mean in terms of the future is unclear,” Mr. Malley added. “What is clear is that future will be different.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: Kushner Says Punishing Palestinians Shortens Odds for Peace. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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