Short of peace plan, Kushner blames Hamas’ ‘corrupt and hateful leadership’

Kushner’s suggestion that peace hinges on Hamas’s acceptance of Israel reflects the difficulty the Trump administration faces.

WASHINGTON - With his peace plan apparently dead, US senior White House adviser Jared Kushner assailed the Hamas government in Gaza for the plan’s failure and for prolonging Palestinians’ suffering by spending billions of dollars in aid on its war against Israel.

In an article published in the Washington Post’s opinion section, Kushner and two other US officials who sought to develop a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan appear to blame Hamas for their failure. Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, who is US President Donald Trump’s top international negotiator, met in June with leaders of Israel, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to develop a plan that has eluded international negotiators for decades.

The Post article, written by Kushner, Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, urged Hamas to “acknowledge that the existence of Israel is a permanent reality” and to stop “provoking or coordinating attacks” on Israel and Gazan development projects funded by international donors.

“At the expense of the Palestinian people, Hamas is fighting a morally bankrupt, decades-old war that has long been lost,” the three Americans wrote. “Peace will provide opportunity to break this stalemate and peace will be achieved only by embracing reality and dismissing a flawed ideology. Life could significantly improve in short order for the Palestinian people if Hamas allowed it.”

US criticism of Hamas is nothing new. The US State Department designated Hamas a foreign terrorist organisation in 1993. Kushner’s suggestion that peace between the Palestinians and Israelis hinges on Hamas’s acceptance of Israel reflects the difficulty the Trump administration faces.

Many analysts have been sceptical of Kushner’s efforts, noting that he had no prior diplomatic experience and that Trump had antagonised the Palestinians by moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinian leaders have refused to negotiate with the Trump administration. Kushner is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

Kushner said in June that he was working on an economic plan that would “attract very large investments in public and private sector infrastructure to make the entire region more interdependent and stimulate future economies.”

On July 7, two weeks after Kushner began publicly discussing his peace efforts, the Washington Post reported that the plan was “stymied” by the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank and remains opposed to Israel. On July 17, the Palestinian Authority condemned “Israeli escalation and threats” on the Gaza Strip and called for international protection of Gaza.

The Post reported that the Trump administration was looking at ways to improve conditions in Gaza, which has large levels of poverty and unemployment. The United Nations has said that, without international intervention, Gaza would be “unliveable” by 2020.

The Post quoted an unnamed senior Trump administration official saying: “We definitely have a Gaza focus right now because the situation is the way it is and we want to try to help.”

However, Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman blamed Hamas for the conditions. “The Palestinians of Gaza are stuck in a vicious cycle where corrupt and hateful leadership has provoked conflicts leading to reduced opportunities and the poverty and hopelessness that follow,” they wrote.

“In the past, investments in badly needed infrastructure have been diverted for weapons and other malign uses and even the projects that are built are often destroyed as a consequence of Hamas’s aggression. Until governance changes or Hamas recognises the state of Israel, abides by previous diplomatic agreements and renounces violence, there is no good option.”

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.