White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has expressed uncertainty over the ability of Palestinians to self-govern, in a rare television interview broadcast on Sunday night.
Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and an architect of the White House’s yet-to-be-released Middle East peace plan, told the “Axios on HBO” television program it would be a “high bar” when asked if the Palestinians could expect freedom from Israeli military and government interference.
The Palestinian leadership has boycotted a diplomatic effort that Trump has hailed as the “deal of the century.” Although Kushner has been drafting the plan for two years under a veil of secrecy, it is seen by Palestinian and some Arab officials as tilting heavily in Israel’s favour and denying them a state of their own.
Kushner again avoided saying explicitly whether the plan would include a two-state solution, the bedrock of US policy for decades, calling for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem.
But he said: “I do think they should have self-determination. I’m going to leave the details until we come out with the actual plan.”
Asked whether he believed the Palestinians were capable of governing themselves without Israeli interference, Kushner said: “That’s a very good question. That’s one that we’ll have to see. The hope is that they, over time, will become capable of governing.”
The Palestinians, he said, “need to have a fair judicial system … freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions” before the Palestinian areas can become “investable”.
Asked whether he understood why the Palestinians might not trust him, Kushner said: “I’m not here to be trusted” and that he believed the Palestinian people would judge the plan based on whether “they think this will allow them to have a pathway to a better life or not.”
The interview also touched on the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Kushner’s views on whether Donald Trump is racist.
Kushner denied the president was racist but would not be drawn on his views on Trump’s “birtherism” campaign against Barack Obama.
“I wasn’t involved in that,” he said several times, when asked if it was racist.
Kusher refused to say if he had discussed the “horrific” murder of Khashoggi with Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He said the country was a long-term US ally, and “we feel like we are in a position now where there is a lot of interests that we have that are shared with them, and our goal is to pursue those interests.”
The Palestinian Authority has said it will not attend a US-sponsored investment conference in late June in Bahrain where the economic part of the initiative is expected to be unveiled.
US officials have been vague about the timing for releasing proposals for resolving the thorny political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But experts are skeptical of the Trump administration’s chances for success.
With Israel heading for new elections in September after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to meet a deadline to form a government, uncertainty is expected to further delay the rollout of the plan.
The Palestinian leadership has refused to deal with the Trump administration since late 2017 when the president decided to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.