US President Donald Trump is “very fond” of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is willing to engage him on the US peace proposal at the right time, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Wednesday.
Kushner, briefing reporters on a conference call, also hinted the US peace plan might call on Palestinian refugees to permanently settle where they are rather than return to original homelands, a position likely to raise sharp criticism from Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) have refused to deal with the Trump administration for 18 months, accusing the US government of being biased towards Israel.
At a workshop in Bahrain last week, Kushner unveiled a $50bn economic plan for the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.
Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments attended the meeting, which took place amid a years-long stalemate in other international efforts to resolve a conflict that has lasted more than seven decades.
Palestinian officials rejected the economic part of the plan, however, saying it did not address the political core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The elephant in the room in Manama is obviously the [Israeli] occupation itself,” senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi told reporters in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah last week. She added that the workshop is “totally divorced from reality”.
Ashrawi said that “if the US is so concerned about Palestinian wellbeing, then why did they carry out these punitive measures against us”, referring to the US decision to cut all funding for the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees.
Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, on Wednesday called the Palestinian leadership’s actions “hysterical and erratic and not particularly constructive”.
At the Bahrain economic workshop, Kushner said his team would release the plan’s political details, which remain secret, “when we’re ready”.
He said a peace deal would happen when both sides are ready to say “yes”, but he acknowledged that they may never get there.
On Wednesday, Kushner said the US “door is always open to the Palestinian leadership”.
He said he believes Abbas wants peace but “certain people around him are very uncomfortable with the way we’ve approached this and their natural reaction is to attack and say crazy things” that are not constructive.
Abbas did not immediately respond to Kushner’s comments on Wednesday.
Last month, Abbas said, “Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important.”
He added, “What have the Americans proposed that is original? 50 or 60 billion dollars? We are used to this kind of nonsense. Let’s not lie to each other. We’ll see if anyone lives long enough to see that $50 billion or $60 billion come.”