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Kushner defends Trump's Middle East plan after Palestinian rejection

Posted January 28, 2020 3:58 p.m. EST

— Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner made the case for President Donald Trump's Middle East plan Tuesday, praising the relationship his father-in-law has with Israel and admonishing Palestinians not to blow their "big opportunity."

"What you've seen today is that President Trump has built a lot of trust with the state of Israel. He's done a lot of great things that have made Israel more secure and the relationship between America and Israel stronger," Kushner said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"It's a big opportunity for the Palestinians and they have a perfect track record of blowing every opportunity they've had in their past, but perhaps maybe their leadership will read the details of it, stop posturing and do what's best to try to make the Palestinians' lives better," he said.

Trump on Tuesday proposed a Middle East plan that he claimed was a "realistic two-state solution" but caters to nearly every major Israeli demand and was immediately rejected by Palestinians.

It lays the groundwork for Israel to immediately begin annexing all of its settlements in the West Bank with US backing and also foresees the establishment of a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty. Palestinian negotiators have not had direct contact with the Trump administration in more than two years.

Under the proposal, Trump said Jerusalem "will remain Israel's undivided capital," but that a future Palestinian state would also have a "capital in east Jerusalem." Trump did not address the question of Palestinian refugees and whether they will have a right of return to their former homes. Trump said neither Palestinians nor Israelis would be uprooted from their homes under the plan.

The plan envisions a Palestinian capital in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem on the eastern side of the separation barrier, physically separated from the rest of the city. Those neighborhoods include Kafr Aqab, Abu Dis and Shuafat. The plan allows for the Palestinians to call their capital "al-Quds," using the Arabic term for Jerusalem, but includes no significant part of East Jerusalem and is well short of what the Palestinians would ever accept as their portion of the holy city.

Beyond proposing a new framework for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the Trump plan gives Israel the green light to annex Israeli settlements regardless of Palestinian support for the plan, but mandates Israel freeze any further settlement expansion for four years.

Kushner took the helm of US efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the start of Trump's presidency, joining forces with former Trump lawyer Jason Greenblatt to meet with key stakeholders in the Middle East and begin drafting a proposal.

Kushner, a 36-year-old former real estate executive, had no prior diplomatic or foreign policy experience.

At the heart of Kushner's efforts was an attempt to capitalize on the quiet rapprochement between Israel and Sunni Arab countries, all of whom have been concerned about Iran's growing influence in the Middle East. Kushner forged close relations with Gulf leaders, particularly Saudi officials, and made clear he believed that regional alignment could pave the way to a peace deal.

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