White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner said in an interview aired Sunday that Palestinians deserve “self-determination,” but expressed uncertainty over their capability to govern themselves.
In an interview with “Axios on HBO” Kushner stopped short of supporting Palestinian statehood. Asked if Palestinians could expect freedom from Israeli interference – either governmental or military – Kushner responded, “I think that’s a high bar … if you don’t have proper government structure and proper security when people are living in fear of terror, that hurts the Palestinians.”
“The hope is that over time they can become capable of governing,” said Kushner. He added that the Palestinians “need to have a fair judicial system … freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions” before the Palestinian territories can become “investable.”
Kushner is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and the architect of a widely-anticipated peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. The plan has been dismissed by the Palestinian leadership for being partial to Israel.
Asked if he understood why Palestinians “don’t trust” him in the Axios interview, Kushner said, “I’m not here to be trusted.” He said his plan would be judged on the merits.
Over the last year and a half, Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and withdrawn vital funds for Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also vowed to annex West Bank settlements, illegal under international law. That promise, made in April during the closing days of his Israeli election campaign, received no objection from the US.
The Palestinians have already spurned the Kushner proposal, the first part of which is what has been called an economic workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama to encourage investment in the West Bank, Gaza, and wider region.
But Kushner’s plan has also raised concerns elsewhere. Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah told Kushner that any peace plan must be based on a two-state solution that gives Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem.
King Abdullah, who acts as custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, has not committed to attending the Bahrain conference.
Axios also asked Kushner about the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the potential role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his October 2018 murder in Istanbul.
The President’s son-in-law deferred that question to the unknown results of an ongoing US investigation saying, “once we have all the facts, then we’ll make a policy determination, but that would be up to the Secretary of State to push on our policy.”
The CIA concluded that the Crown Prince personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, despite the Saudi government’s denials that he was involved.
CNN’s Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.