politics to go

Why Kushner’s meeting left Abbas angry


After meeting with Jared Kushner in Ramallah last week, an angry Mahmoud Abbas, not used to a U.S. presidency making demands of the Palestinian side, accused the American delegation of favoring Israel instead of being an unbiased moderator. The major issue was America’s request that Palestinians stop paying terrorists in Israel jails and stop inciting people to commit acts of violence against Israelis.

Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Trump, and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, visited Jerusalem and Ramallah last week to begin the peace process that Trump called for during his trip to the region a month ago.

Palestinian sources told YNet News, “The American delegation accepted the Israeli position on the issue of paying salaries to prisoners and painted it at the meeting as a means of encouraging terrorism and demanded that it be stopped.” Israel Radio reported (quoting Arabic media) that Kushner and Greenblatt initially demanded the Palestinians stop all payments to prisoners in Israeli prisons; when Abbas pushed back, they softened their position, asking them to stop paying the approximately 600 terrorists serving life sentences for murdering Israeli citizens.

London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat added that other issues brought up by the U.S. delegation included Abbas’ refusal to condemn the Palestinian terrorist who stabbed to death Hadas Malka, a young female Israeli police officer, outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. The paper also reported that the American team protested Abbas’ refusal to meet with the American ambassador, David Friedman, because Friedman had been a vocal supporter of construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

The day after the meeting, Abbas spokesman Nabil Shaath read a speech by Abbas which claimed the Palestinians have a “social responsibility” to offer monetary payouts to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails because they are “political prisoners” and the payouts are the PA’s way of “looking after innocent people affected by the incarceration or killing of their loved ones as a result of the military occupation.”

Per their usual method of deflection, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat followed up by turning things around, claiming it is the Israelis who are inciting terrorism. “Incitement and glorification of terror have been a longstanding policy by this extremist [Netanyahu] government,” Erekat  said, with Israel trying to “deviate attention [from the stalled peace talks] by inventing new excuses, such as allegations of incitement.”

Abbas was also apparently upset by the failure of the Americans to raise the “settlement” issue. “We told the Americans that the settlements were the source of the despair and terror because they remove any future hope for Palestinians to live in their own land,” a Palestinian source told YNet.

Abbas should not have been surprised at the American position on incitement. After President Trump returned from his Middle East trip in May, an American source told Israeli’s Channel 2 that Trump had yelled at Abbas because of the Palestinian Authority’s continued incitement against Jews and against Israel.

“You tricked me in D.C.!” the President was reported to have hollered at a stunned Abbas. “You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement.” The source told Channel 2 that Trump’s anger was followed by several minutes of shocked silence from the Palestinians before the two sides managed to get back on track.

After that May meeting with Abbas, Trump gave a speech that referred in part to the incitement. “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” the president said. “We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single, unified voice.”

Perhaps the real reason for the Palestinian leader’s anger about the Kushner delegation was that he wasn’t used to being asked by the Americans to take steps toward peace. President Bush agreed with Israel that there should be no Palestinian “right of return” into Israel, and that final borders would require adjustments to the 1949 armistice lines, but he didn’t make demands of the Palestinians. President Obama made constant demands of Israel to take unilateral steps to show the Palestinians that Israel wanted peace, but at least publicly he never made demands of the Palestinians.

Under the Trump presidency Israel will not always get what it wants — for example, the administration has asked the Israeli government to stop construction in Judea and Samaria. However, this president will not attempt to de-legitimize the Jewish state by demanding one-sided actions and then criticizing Israel for not capitulating to the American demands.

The real message delivered to Abbas by the American delegation led by Kushner was a silent one. There is a new sheriff in town and this one doesn’t hate Israel like the previous one.