The Trump administration is beginning to prepare its allies for a spring release of its long-awaited “ultimate deal” for Middle East peace. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has outlined that his plan is focused on four principles: Freedom, respect, opportunity and security, but despite working on the plan for close to two years, scant information is known about the contours of the initiative. White House officials have also kept mostly silent about the “deal of the century”.
Here is what we know so far.
White House officials say that the peace plan will be detailed and have identified areas in which it differs from past attempts by previous US administrations to broker a peace deal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the administration is trying a new approach, away from the old parameters of failed blueprints that have yielded little results. The new plan is said to bring the benefits of an agreement between both parties to the forefront.
In January this year, Kushner visited Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE in a one week tour aimed at gauging the level of support of the economic dimensions of the plan. While in Abu Dhabi, Kushner was interviewed by Sky News Arabia and said that the peace plan is focused on economic opportunity. It’s about “what’s holding back the Palestinian people from achieving their full potential and what’s holding back the Israeli people from being able to properly integrate with the whole region.”
He expressed hope the plan’s economic impact will “be felt throughout the entire region” as his initiative is aimed at bringing about commercial opportunities to improve the living standards or the people in the Middle East—including Palestinians and Israelis— which had remained sluggish due to continuous conflict throughout the region.
The plan promises billions of dollars for economic development through international funding in the impoverished Palestinian areas, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in the neighbouring Arab countries, particularly Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.
“The economic plan only works if the region supports it,” said one official who briefed a small group of reporters ahead of Kushner’s visit. “This is a very important part of the overall equation.
The scope of the economic investments are new to the peacemaking efforts, but experts say that whether it will materialise is dependent on attracting enough donors to deliver on the economic targets, particularly as Trump has demonstrated throughout his presidency that he is not prepared to provide serious American dollars in foreign assistance.
In his Sky News Arabia interview, Kushner said that the political dimension of the plan would focus on “resolving the border issue.”
“The goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the borders,” he said. “If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror, you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a lot more opportunities.”
Kushner also expressed the need for unified rule over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are currently split between the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority and Hamas respectively.
“We would like to see is them unified under one leadership and come together. There has been a lot of discussion between Hamas and through Fatah, but I think what the people want is a government that doesn’t have corruption,” he said.
The Middle East envoy also said the peace deal is focusing on freedom and respect as the key to put an end to the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“The first principle is to have freedom. We want people to be able to have the freedom of opportunity, the freedom of religion, the freedom to worship, regardless of your faith. Respect: we want all people to have dignity and to respect each other. Opportunity: we want people to be able to better their lives and not allow their grandfather’s conflict to hijack their children’s future. And the final one is security.:
While sharing his deal with the stakeholders in the Middle East, Kusher apologised for not being willing to reveal significant details about its contents, which he insisted are based on two years of consultations with various parties to the conflict. Kushner highlighted the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of many details of the peace deal. He claimed that the deal’s provisions are more practical and fairer than previous attempts at peacemaking which is why it is required that they are kept secret - to prevent their premature leaking which could lead to its failure “We have examined the previous negotiations and we found that the details are unveiled even before the maturity of the peace deal, forcing politicians to abandon the plan,” he said.
Kushner has said that "the final status issues will be addressed in our plan" but still little is known about key deal-breaker issues such as the issue of Jerusalem, the refugee question, the future of Jewish settlements, security arrangements, bilateral relations between and the parameters of the final borders. While the plan is said to be detailed and therefore less is left to interpretation, this does not mean that an agreement would emerge soon after the deal is finally released as there is no avoiding what each side sees as essential on these core issues. No doubt each side will evaluate and discuss each sentence, necessitating lengthy negotiations.