Mideast Peace
January 27, 2020

President Trump is scheduled to meet Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz at the White House, Reuters reported. Trump is preparing to unveil his Mideast peace plan after a long delay. Trump first will meet with Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud party, and then with Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party nearly tied with Likud in Israel's last election. Neither leader managed to pull together a ruling coalition, so Israelis will vote again in March to break the deadlock. Trump reportedly plans to share some of the details of his peace plan with Netanyahu and Gantz, who on Saturday said the plan would be a "meaningful landmark mapping the way for the different players in the Middle East to finally move forward towards an historical and regional agreement." Harold Maass

April 15, 2019

Jared Kushner, President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, is expected to release his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in the next few months, and the details are closely guarded. But based on comments from Kushner and other U.S. officials, plus people familiar with the main elements of the plan, it "promises practical improvements in the lives of Palestinians but is likely to stop short of ensuring a separate, fully sovereign Palestinian state," The Washington Post reports, and it is "likely to focus heavily on Israeli security concerns."

Kushner has been working to build support for his plan in the region, and he's getting mixed reactions in the Arab world, the Post says, describing a recent visit to Saudi Arabia:

That Feb. 26 meeting in Riyadh included Saudi intellectuals and columnists as well as government officials, and the participants were chosen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, one person familiar with the session said. The prince has forged a close relationship with Kushner and is seen as more supportive of the peace plan than is his father, King Salman. "[Kushner] did listen to critical points and questions but wasn't willing to think about criticism and was defensive," the person familiar with the session said. "He seemed to have been surprised when he learned that the majority of people in the room were critical of his plan and told him that King Salman emphasized the rights of the Palestinians." [The Washington Post]

Kushner's plan reportedly envisions tens of billions of dollars in aid and investment for the Palestinians, plus billions more for Egypt and Jordan, and it's not clear where the money would come from. Rich Persian Gulf states "were asked to support financially the economic part," Ghaith al-Omari, a Middle East analyst and former Palestinian Authority adviser, tells the Post. "In polite terms, the answer they gave was, 'First, tell us what we are supposed to pay for.' ... There were no commitments." Peter Weber

January 8, 2018

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser whose once-broad portfolio has apparently shrunk to Middle East peace, has nonetheless been on the receiving end of at least one multimillion-dollar Israeli deal since he joined the White House, a $30 million infusion to his family company, Kushner Cos., right before he accompanied President Trump to the Middle East last May, The New York Times reports. In that previously undisclosed deal, Israeli insurance powerhouse Menora Mivtachim invested in Kushner-owned apartments in the Baltimore area in which Jared Kushner still has a financial stake, the Times reports.

Kushner Cos. has also teamed up with a member of Israel's wealthy Steinmetz family to buy nearly $200 million in Manhattan apartment buildings plus develop a luxury high-rise in New Jersey, and has taken out at least four loans from Bank Hapoalim, Israels' largest bank, the Times reports, noting that Beny Steinmetz and Bank Hapoalim are being investigated by the Justice Department for bribery and aiding tax evasion, respectively. Kushner Cos. is also reportedly under an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The business dealings don't appear to violate federal ethics laws," The New York Times says, and there is no evidence that Kushner, who resigned as CEO to join the White House but didn't fully divest, "was personally involved in brokering the deal." But the Trump administration already faces the perception that more than most U.S. administrations, it is not an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and business ties between Israel and Trump's Mideast peace czar won't help that view. Kushner's family charity also donates to a West Bank Israeli settlement organization.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said the Trump administration has "tremendous confidence in the job Jared is doing leading our peace efforts, and he takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration." You can read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

May 2, 2017

On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will meet with President Trump in the White House, as Trump begins a push to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. On Monday, Hamas, the rival Palestinian faction to Abbas' Fatah, unveiled a newly revised charter that dropped the group's explicit call for Israel's destruction, distanced itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, formally accepted a provisional Palestinian state along the borders established by the 1967 Middle East war, and weakened anti-Jewish language from its 1988 charter, though Hamas did not renounce the goal of taking over the land now held by Israel or recognize Israel.

"This charter demonstrates our political vision and will be taught to our supporters," Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Monday in Doha, Qatar, where Hamas has its headquarters. "The 1988 charter represented our vision at that time and this one represents our vision now." Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and other Western nations, has controlled the Gaza Strip for a decade, while Fatah runs the West Bank. In moderating its tone, analysts say, Hamas is bidding for more international legitimacy and trying to edge into the role of dominant faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which represents all Palestinians in international organizations. Fatah recognizes Israel.

Abbas is 82 and unpopular, and Fatah leaders are openly vying to succeed him, but while Hamas could gain popularity in the Palestinian territories, analysts say, Israel and the U.S. are unlikely to view the group much differently. The official moderation is "an attempt to grab market share," Jonathan Schanzer at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tells The Wall Street Journal. "It's a very calculated shift, but I think the Trump administration is not going to see Hamas any differently ... it's a softening of rhetoric, not a change of behavior." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pointed to the divide between Hamas and Fatah as a reason not to reopen peace negotiations. Peter Weber

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