Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump's senior aide and son-in-law, said Thursday that the Trump administration's recent string of measures against the Palestinians have not hampered the possibility of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Kushner told the New York Times that he thinks Trump promoted the peace process by shattering several "false realities" that were created over the years, which he felt "needed to be changed."
In recent weeks, the Trump administration announced it was cutting its entire funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), its $200 million aid budget to the Palestinians, $25 million meant to support six East Jerusalem hospitals. On Monday, the State Department said it was closing the Palestinian Liberation Organization mission in Washington.
Various experts warned of the reprecussions such drastic cuts would have on the fragile status-quo in the Middle East, from empowering Hamas by hampering UNRWA as sole provider of secular education for Palestinians, to the possible collapse of Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem.
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"All we're doing is dealing with things as we see them," Kushner said, adding that as a result "you have a much higher chance of actually achieving real peace."
Kushner posits that the Palestinian leadership deserved the aid cuts for the way they derogated Trump, especially following his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. embassy to it. He said no one was "entitled to America's foreign aid," adding that the funds that went to UNRWA and other causes were being misused.
He insisted that U.S. aid should foster its national interests and assist those in dire straits, arguing that funding the Palestinians for all these years led to a sense of entitlement on their part, and promoted no agenda of self-reliance.
Despite the PA's boycott of the Trump administration, Kushner was optimistic about the odds of mending the rift. He claimed not to be impressed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas' "posturing," which he partially accredited to the nature of Abbas' domestic politics.
Kushner said that if Abbas was an earnest leader, he would thoroughly study Trump's peace plan upon its release. "In every negotiation I've even been in, before somebody gets to 'yes,' their answer is 'no,'" he said.
The Trump aide claimed he was confident in the plan he is devising with U.S. Mideast peace envoy Jason D. Greenblatt, which recently had its team expanded to help bolster its economic component.
The report also mentions the White House had hoped the plan would have the support of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Kushner is known to be friendly. But as the Kingdom struggles with its various reforms domestically, the administration has had to let go of such notions.
A newly released book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward about the Trump presidency claims Kushner has been working to encourage an alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia, sometimes against the advice of other senior officials in the White House.