While this White House is becoming famous for its leaks, one of its plans
has remained relatively secretive—its Middle East strategy for an
Israeli-Palestinian peace. But the leak last week of comments by envoy
Jared Kushner, who is chartered to explore options for peace negotiations, sheds new light on the Trump administration's assessment of those
options—and it's not good for the Palestinians.
In short, Kushner admitted that there may be no solution currently to the
conflict. He also noted that Palestinian riots ignited last week due to the
placement of security metal detectors at the entrance to al Aqsa Mosque
showed that "
you have some people who don't want to see and achieve an outcome of
. And other people sometimes thrive on chaos."
Indeed, the violent response of the Palestinians to those metal
detectors—put there after Palestinians smuggled automatic weapons into al
Aqsa and used them to murder two Israeli police—was just one more Arab excuse to refuse to negotiate. After all, many Muslim
holy sites, including the Kaaba in Mecca, use metal detectors for security,
as do all shopping centers in Israel (and all international airports).
In general, Kushner expressed frustration and a note of sympathy with
Israel's trying to keep its people safe, while bending over backwards to mollify the Palestinian street and
Unfortunately, but predictably, when Kushner and his fellow diplomatic
envoy, Jason Greenblatt, respond like normal, rational people to obvious Palestinian perfidy—that is, with confusion and pushback—the Palestinians accuse them of
"taking Israel's side" or "acting as Israel's lawyer."
"Look guys, let's be realistic. The Arabs lost the wars in 1948 and 1967,
Israel has become an economic powerhouse, Israel has become the region's
most powerful military force and Israel has successfully repulsed every
wave of terrorism the Palestinians have mounted. In other words, the Arabs have lost, and Israel has won. That's the
reality we're dealing with here."
Mssrs. Kushner and Greenblatt should conclude their lesson by informing the
Palestinians that their negotiating leverage deteriorates with every
passing day. If the Arabs truly want independence and the opportunity to build a state, they should take hat in hand and negotiate the best possible peace now—which for
many reasons will be less, much less, than they were offered in 2000 and in
To help you as a pro-Israel advocate understand what appears to be
an erosion of support by the Trump administration for the
Palestinians—and the Palestinians' corresponding disillusionment with the Trump
team—I hope you'll read the excellent FLAME Hotline featured article,
below, by diplomatic correspondent Raphael Ahren.
We can only hope that Trump's disillusionment with the Palestinians
soon frees him up to increasing support of Israel by moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel's capital in Jerusalem, as he many times so dramatically promised to do
while running for office.
Speaking of the Palestinians' manifestly unreasonable positions, I hope
you'll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes
FLAME's long-running hasbarah campaign to promote a Congressional bill
that withdraws U.S. funding to the Palestinians as long as they
use $300 million a year of foreign aid to pay salaries as an incentive
The Temple Crisis Ended Trump's Palestinian Honeymoon. The Kushner Tape
Made Things Worse
By Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, August 3, 2017
In Washington three months ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas praised US President Donald Trump's "wisdom," "courageous stewardship" and
"great negotiating ability." Speaking in the White House's Roosevelt Room,
where he and Trump were addressing the media, Abbas switched from Arabic to
English. "Now, Mr. President," he declared, "with you we have hope."
Twenty days later, the two men met again, this time in the Presidential
Palace in Bethlehem. "Your Excellency," Abbas told his prominent guest,
"meeting you in the White House early this month has given us and our
Palestinian people ... so much hope and optimism of the possibility to make
true a dream, a long-awaited dream and ambition, and that is lasting and
But in recent days, the Palestinians' relationship with the Trump
administration, which started off so surprisingly amicably, has
soured-—largely in the wake of last month's tensions over the Temple Mount
in Jerusalem. And Ramallah's mounting frustration with what it increasingly
sees as an American pro-Israel bias - underlined by leaked comments from
Trump's Middle East point man, Jared Kushner, in which he seems sympathetic
to Israel's position—could cripple Trump's ability to be seen as an honest
Although Trump was known as a longtime staunch supporter of Israel,
after his election in November, the Palestinians were encouraged by his
expressed desire to mediate a final-status peace deal. They were relieved
when he slowly but surely walked back some of his previous pro-Israel
positions—for instance when he urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to
"hold back on settlements for a little bit" and when he delayed
indefinitely the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Palestinians' strategy seemed to be a mix of magnanimity and flattery.
Recognizing that his special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, was going to great
lengths to show the administration's intention to approach the conflict
evenhandedly, Ramallah opted to go along with Trump. On his visit to
Israel, moreover, Trump openly contradicted Netanyahu's assertion that
Abbas was no peace partner, going off-script in his final speech at the
Israel Museum in Jerusalem to assert, "I am telling you ... the
Palestinians are ready to reach for peace."
In that spirit of trying to stay on the administration's good side, the
Palestinians largely kept quiet as Trump became the first sitting US
president to visit the Western Wall, and even, subsequently, when the White
House allowed Israel to start work on the first new West Bank settlement in
The first clear sign of Palestinian bitterness appeared in early July,
when senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi
accused Nikki Haley, Trump's envoy to the United Nations, of an "obsessive
and targeted campaign of intimidation and threats" against Palestinians and
Since then, the Palestinians appear to have abandoned their initial
praise-the-president-and-hope-for-the-best strategy, and increasingly
unvarnished criticism of the administration is being expressed.
"The fact the US administration did not declare the final goal of the peace
process is to achieve two states on the basis of the 1967 borders, and its
silence regarding the intensification of Israeli colonial settlement
activities, are interpreted by the Israeli government as an opportunity to
destroy the two-state solution and replace it with one state with two
systems," top Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat charged Tuesday.
By tolerating Israel's policies, the White House would give Israel the
green light to erect an "apartheid" system, Erekat charged, urging the
president to come out in support of a two-state solution based on the 1967
"We're not saying that Trump is the most pro-Israel president in history.
We're not blaming him for anything," a senior official in the Palestinian
leadership told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. "But if he wants to have
a peace process, we need to know what we're talking about."
Ramallah was dismayed, and starting to show it, at Washington's
during the two-week crisis over the Temple Mount, which started when Israel
erected metal detectors at the flashpoint holy site after two Israeli
policemen were killed by three Arab Israelis using firearms that had been
smuggled into the compound.
Palestinians demanded Israel remove all security measures installed at the
Temple Mount following the July 14 shooting. Greenblatt and Trump's senior
adviser (and son-in-law) Kushner made behind-the-scenes efforts to defuse
the crisis. The Palestinians argue that the administration backed the
Israeli government's position while dismissing the Palestinian point of
"Greenblatt picked a side and represented Netanyahu throughout the crisis,"
an unnamed senior Palestinian source told the Al-Monitor website this week.
A senior US official told The Times of Israel last week that
throughout the crisis, Netanyahu "acted with a clear sense of
responsibility not just for Israel's security, but also for regional
stability." No such praise, it might be noted, was forthcoming regarding
A leaked conversation Kushner had this week with Congressional interns
appeared to confirm where his sympathies lay during the Temple Mount
tensions. He defended Israel's decision to erect metal detectors following
the terror attack as "not an irrational thing to do," noting that two
Israelis had been killed with guns brought into the site.
The next thing that happened is that the Palestinians "start inciting" and
claiming Israel wanted to change the status quo, said Kushner. "And Israel
was saying we don't want anything to do with that, we just want to make
sure people are safe. And that really incited a lot of tension in the
In his leaked remarks, Kushner went on to bash Palestinian clergymen who
told worshipers their prayers wouldn't be accepted if they passed through
the Israeli metal detector gates. He also lamented the "absolutely
terrible" killing of three Israeli civilians in the West Bank settlement of
Halamish on July 21, mentioning that their murder—by a Palestinian
terrorist who stabbed them to death at their Shabbat table—was explicitly
committed for the sake of the Temple Mount's Al-Aqsa Mosque.
But perhaps worst of all, from a Palestinian perspective, Kushner appeared
to express sympathy for Netanyahu when he noted that the prime minister
"was getting beaten up by the press in Israel, because [finally removing
the metal detectors] was very politically unpopular for him to do."
Kushner "clearly adopted every single Israeli position," a Palestinian
official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.
Trump's son-in-law obviously "has a fondness for Israel and Netanyahu,
through longstanding family connections and early childhood memories, that
outweighs his regard and affection for the Palestinians," veteran US peace
negotiator Aaron David Miller observed in Politico after dissecting the
senior Trump's adviser's leaked speech.
Kushner's sympathies for the Jewish state do not necessarily doom the White
House's effort to broker a deal, but he must not allow himself to be seen
as Israel's lawyer, Miller warned. "If he's not prepared to push both sides
hard, he might as well close up for the season."
Apparently eager to salvage American credibility among Palestinians, the
White House has kept mostly quiet as the Temple Mount crisis faded. In
private conversations, US officials say the president was involved in the
efforts to restore calm and continues to be fully committed to bringing
peace to Israelis and Palestinians.
But given the deep rift that has developed over the last few weeks, some
are already predicting the speedy demise of Trump's much-touted plan to
broker the "ultimate deal."
"As of now, Trump's peace initiative looks like it is completely bogged
a senior Israeli political figure told Al-Monitor.
Kushner, in his leaked speech, did little to inspire hope in Trump's
ability to succeed where all of his predecessors failed.
"So, what do we offer that's unique? I don't know," he said. "We're
thinking about what the right end state is, and we're trying to work with
the parties very quietly to see if there's a solution. And there may be no
solution, but it's one of the problem sets that the president asked us to
Apparently, Trump's point man on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows
that his mission might be impossible. But, he admitted, he's giving it a
shot anyway, simply because his father-in-law asked him to.
"My sense is that Kushner realizes that the peace process isn't ready for
prime time, and isn't quite sure what to do about it," Miller wrote.
Where does the Israeli government stand regarding the ending of the
Palestinian-American honeymoon and Kushner's quasi-recognition that peace
may in fact remain unattainable?
A senior official in Jerusalem on Wednesday declined to discuss Abbas's
saying only that the Palestinians "are seeking every excuse not to engage
in genuine direct peace negotiations." Discussions between Jerusalem and
Washington about key issues of the peace process "haven't stopped for a
moment," the official said, insisting on anonymity. Israel continues to
make its positions clear to the administration, he added.
Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren said Israel was interested in
the Americans taking a "highly proactive stance" in the peace process. "But
they need to have goals that reflect Middle East realities and not the
conventional wisdoms of Washington think tanks and elite universities."
Kushner's leaked comments appear to reflect his realization that past
efforts to bring peace had failed because they were divorced from the
reality on the ground, said Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US.
"Washington should realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not
about territory but has "deep religious roots," Oren told The Times of Israel Wednesday. Furthermore, the administration
needs to ask itself whether the Palestinian leadership "has the power to
sign and enforce a deal, and if we create a Palestinian state, if it could
cohere for more than a few days, or a few hours, before falling to Hamas at
best and ISIS at worst."
Do the Palestinian-American tensions and Kushner's pessimistic leaked
mean that the administration will soon drop its bid to broker peace and let
Jerusalem do as it pleases in the West Bank? If he were going to be put off
by a tense political climate and the apparent unfeasibility of a
final-status deal, you'd think the president would never have announced his
intention to give it a shot in the first place. You'd think. But with
Trump, you couldn't be sure.