Kushner to Visit Israel, Jordan to Discuss Bahrain Conference

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser will meet with King Abdullah and Netanyahu alongside Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner attends a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019
Czarek Sokolowski,AP

WASHINGTON — Senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner will visit Amman on Wednesday and is expected to meet with King Abdullah II, a White House official said as part of a broader Middle East trip that includes Israel and Morocco. 

The trip is meant to bolster support for the administration’s plan for Middle East peace and the economic conference scheduled to take place in Bahrain next month. The workshop is being boycotted by the Palestinian Authority.

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The Trump administration’s small team working on the Middle East peace plan — which is led by Kushner — is currently locked in a battle with the PA over how the Arab world will respond to its plan.

>> Read more: Jordan may be the weakest link in Trump’s peace initiative | Analysis ■ We Palestinians say to Trump: No to Bahrain, bribes and never-ending occupation ■ Palestinians won't ever warm to Trump's 'deal of the century,' Israeli army tells government | Analysis 

Kushner has arrived Tuesday in Morocco to seek King Mohammed VI's backing for economic elements of the Trump administration's peace plan. Morocco, alongside Jordan, has yet to offer any public position on either the peace plan or the Bahrain meeting.

Kushner will arrive in Israel on Thursday alongside U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, Kushner's deputy Avi Berkowitz and Iran Special Envoy Brian Hook the White House announced. 

The Palestinians hope Arab countries will support their position and reject the plan, which they believe will be one-sided and skewed in favor of Israel. The administration, meanwhile, hopes to convince as many Arab nations as possible to at least consider the plan as a basis for negotiations.

Jordan is a key player in this political and diplomatic battle for several reasons. Historically, it is responsible for safeguarding Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem; it has a peace treaty with Israel; and a majority of its citizens are Palestinians. A Jordanian rejection of the peace plan could make it harder for other Arab countries to embrace it, whereas flexibility toward the plan by Amman will likely make it easier for others to follow suit.

Amman has so far not announced whether or not it will participate in the economic conference on June 25-26, which will focus on the future of the Palestinian economy. The Trump administration will release the economic chapter of the peace plan before the conference, but not the political part, which deals with more sensitive aspects of the conflict.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their regional rival Qatar have already told the Trump administration they will attend. Meanwhile, a senior PA official stated Monday that both China and Russia will be boycotting the event.

>> King Abdullah is caught between Jordan’s protests and Jerusalem’s tensions  | Read more

The Russian foreign ministry took a dim view of the conference in a statement on Tuesday, saying the United States was attempting to "impose an 'alternative vision' of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement." 

"The Palestinian leadership has already categorically refused to take part, saying that the PLO will not surrender to anyone its exclusive rights to make crucial decisions regarding the realization of Palestinians' national aspirations," it said. 

At the beginning of the month, two senior U.S. senators — Mitt Romney (Republican of Utah) and Chris Murphy (Democrat of Connecticut)  returned from a trip to Jordan and warned that the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan could destabilize the kingdom.

Last month, the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Qabas published a sensational report that “the [Jordanian] kingdom was saved from a dangerous plot” whose goal was to shake up the country by organizing mass protests, expanding criticism of the king over his method of appointing prime ministers and his opposition to Trump’s peace plan.

In response, the report said, King Abdullah II fired several senior officials, including the general intelligence chief, in a move that some commentators linked to the looming peace deal.

Reuters contributed to this report.