In 2018, prosecutors in Brooklyn subpoenaed information from the family-run real estate development business Kushner Companies to investigate how it “routinely filed false paperwork that resulted in the company netting millions during a three-year period” when presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was its CEO.
At one of its properties, current and former residents alleged that the company deliberately subjected them “to extensive construction, with banging, drilling, dust, and leaking water that they believe were part of targeted harassment to get them to leave and clear the way for higher-paying renters.”
Now, as a senior presidential advisor, Kushner has teamed up with Jason Greenblatt – Trump’s former real estate lawyer – and US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman – Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer – to form another Kushner and Associates of sorts, to draft the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
This new incorporation of Kushner and Associates appears to be adopting its usual shady business practices in an attempt to force Palestinians into submission to perpetual Israeli dominance.
First, Kushner and Associates prepared the ground by exerting maximum political, diplomatic and economic pressure on the Palestinians to weaken them as much as possible prior to the introduction of their plan.
The US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the opening of its embassy there, the shuttering of the PLO embassy in Washington, and the defunding of UNRWA and the USAID mission to the West Bank and Gaza Strip were all calculated steps to try to force the Palestinians to the breaking point before launching the so-called Deal of the Century.
Last Sunday, the Trump administration launched the second phase of its plan: A two-day international “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop in the repressive Kingdom of Bahrain, which will take place in June.
The workshop will “facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region, including enhancements to economic governance, development of human capital, and facilitation of rapid private-sector growth,” according to a joint statement.
By convening this workshop, the Trump administration hopes to gin up billions of dollars in commitments for grants, loans, and investments to boost the Palestinian economy. This proposal is in line with Kushner’s description of the “Deal of the Century” at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC-affiliated think tank, on 2 May.
For Kushner and Associates, the key to unlocking Israeli-Palestinian peace is to content Palestinians with their subservient status under Israel’s domination through bettering their economic lot.
Kushner has put together a “very good business plan” for Palestinians. It will “help the Palestinian people have dignity and have opportunity and create a new paradigm and break this cycle,” he asserted.
In Kushner’s estimation, self-determination is not a political concept but an economic one. Rather than self-determination being about an indigenous people exercising sovereignty in their homeland, for Kushner it is all about getting down pat the mechanics of good governance.
“You’re never going to see people start to have the self-determination and the better lives that they’ve been talking about” until Palestinians “have rule of law, have transparency, eliminate corruption, really enforce property rights, and put people in a position where people have an environment where they can make investments and feel comfortable about it.”
Davos-like “self-determination” for Palestine is his rallying cry and mantra.
For Kushner and Associates, “our number one goal is we want the Palestinian people’s lives to get better,” not – it seems – for them to achieve freedom from Israeli occupation, justice for refugees, or equality for citizens of Israel.
That is an outmoded way of looking at the issue “from the political lens,” according to Kushner. Instead of having “political negotiations… let’s focus on the Palestinian people” instead, he urged.
It’s no wonder that PA and PLO leadership immediately shot down their participation in the workshop. “Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel,” stated Social Development Minister and PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani.
In fact, it appears that the Trump administration didn’t even bother to solicit their opinion about the initiative.
“The cabinet wasn’t consulted about the reported workshop, neither over the content, nor the outcome nor timing,” Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said. Kushner and Associates were probably too busy thinking about how to improve Palestinians’ lives to bother.
Junior associate Jason Greenblatt lashed out on Twitter against those describing the “deal of the century” as economic only in nature.
“To those falsely claiming our vision is just economic peace: we’ve been clear that the economic vision we present can’t exist without the political component, and the political component can’t succeed without the economic. Don’t believe rumors the plan is only economic. It’s not.”
Greenblatt should be taken at his word. Undoubtedly there is a third and final component to the Kushner and Associates strategy without which the first two make no sense. After attempting to weaken the Palestinian position, the Trump administration is now trying to sugarcoat with economic incentives the bitter political prescription they will try to induce the Palestinians to swallow.
While credible details of the political contours of their vision have not yet leaked, the broad strokes of the policy are obvious from the worldviews of Kushner and Associates, all of whom are ideological and financial backers of maximalist Israeli expansionism and devotees of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who rode to re-election this year on a pledge to annex Israeli settlements blocs.
Kushner and Associates likely will put forward a plan enabling Israel to annex most or all of Area C (the 60 percent of the West Bank under total Israeli control), establishing a Palestinian mini-entity devoid of sovereignty in fragments of the West Bank, with Trump already having declared Jerusalem and refugees “off the table”.
Needless to say, any semblance of this proposal is a non-starter from the Palestinian perspective.
However, just as the Trump administration did not deign to consult Palestinians about how to “improve their lives”, so too are the Palestinians superfluous to the political component of the plan.
The “Deal of the Century” is not about engaging Palestinians in a negotiation to attain their political rights. It’s a gift to Netanyahu to implement his annexation plan and attempt to permanently bury those rights.
Josh Ruebner is Senior Principal at Progress Up Consulting and is the author of Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? and Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
This article was published by The New Arab on the 22nd of May 2019.