Kushner: It will take ‘couple of months’ to prepare maps ahead of any annexation
Jared Kushner, the chief architect of the Trump peace plan, has said that it will take “a couple of months” to complete work on detailed West Bank maps before Israel will be able to annex settlements and the Jordan Valley.
After briefing the UN Security Council at a private lunch at the US Mission to the United Nations on Thursday, Kushner told a small group of journalists that he and his team will follow up with the announcement shortly that a US-Israeli commission is being established to turn its “conceptual map” into a detailed map with the goal of making sure “you can have contiguous territory” for a Palestinian state.
It can take “a couple of months” for technical teams to come up with a map, Kushner said, and during that time he and his team plan to consult with European and Middle Eastern governments to further explain the plan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to swiftly start annexing parts of the West Bank moments after the White House unveiled its peace proposal late last month. Though US Ambassador David Friedman initially backed the move, Kushner said publicly he expected Israel to wait at least until after the national vote on March 2.
Settler leaders have said that Netanyahu told them he is still seeking to annex parts of the West Bank before elections early next month, despite US opposition to the move.
Kushner, the son-in-law and adviser to US President Donald Trump, said Thursday that the US proposal may be the last chance because the rate of expansion of Israeli settlements may preclude a contiguous Palestinian state.
Right now, Kushner said, “it’s very, very difficult to have a contiguous state where you can drive from the top to the bottom.”
“If you look at the rate of expansion of Israeli settlements and if you look at the aspirations of the Palestinian people you’re about to get to a crossroad where you almost can’t come back,” he said.
He said the 180-page plan “was what we got Israel to agree to” and the most constructive thing the Palestinians can do is to sit down with the Israelis and go over it “line by line.”
“If they would like to meet, we’re happy to do it, but we’re not going to chase them,” Kushner said.
But under terms of the “peace vision” that Kushner oversaw, all Israeli settlers would remain in place, and Israel would retain sovereignty over all of its settlements as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.
Looking back at the lengthy process of drafting the plan, Kushner said that during four meetings with Abbas, “I never felt like he was willing to get into details, either because he’s not a detail-oriented person or because he didn’t know what he wanted to accomplish.”
“He liked high-level principles, but you can’t solve problems in high-level principles and so they chose not to meet with us again,” Kushner added.
The Palestinians, who rejected the plan before it was announced, broke ties with the US after the Trump administration announced in December 2017 that it would move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
Kushner also said he was working to shift the approach of the international community to break its “habits” and solve the “hardest problem in the world.”
He presented the plan to the UN Security Council, using maps and graphics to illustrate his contention that the parallel developments of Israeli settlements and Palestinian aspirations would lead to a point of no return for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Several countries, including Britain and Belgium, said the meeting was “very interesting,” while a diplomat said some members of the Security Council were given the US plan in the form of a large book, signed by Kushner.
“People want to see fresh thinking and progress,” Kushner told reporters.
“We are having very constructive discussions with everyone and we want to work together with the Council and other countries to make progress.”
“What we are doing is just trying to fight against habits. People have been in a habit for so long of just saying the same things, putting out the same statements,” he said.
The plan’s recent publication has caused a “ton of cracks” in the approach taken by several states, Kushner said, pointing in particular to the European Union, which he said “was not able to get a consensual statement” about the proposal.
He also said members of the Arab League had either been neutral or supportive of the ideas and he had seen “very few critical statements.”
“We are able to convince more and more people that this is the way to go. People are tired of this issue, they realize that it’s in their national interest to see a resolution,” he added.