U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said he is "ready to work" with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on a peace plan, a proposal that has been met with both skepticism and refusal in the region before its details are announced.
Kushner made the remarks in an interview published on Sunday by the Palestinian Arabic language newspaper Al Quds.
"You deserve to have a bright future, now is the time for both the Israelis and Palestinians to strengthen their leaderships and refocus them to encourage them to open up toward a solution, and not fear trying," Kushner told Al Quds.
Kushner, who heads the White House Mideast team, and Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt were on a five-leg trip that included Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel. In Israel, the last stop of the trip, Kushner and Greenblatt met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both on Friday and Saturday.
Kushner said he did not "wish to talk about the details of the deal that we're working on", but indicated it would be ready "soon".
"If President Abbas is ready to go back to the negotiations table, then we are ready to participate in the discussion, but if it's not the case, then we are going to make the plan public," he said.
Kushner said that Arab leaders had clarified to him that "they want to see a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. They want an agreement that enables the Palestinian people to live in peace, ad to have the same economic opportunities that their people enjoy."
Palestinian leaders have refused to meet U.S. officials, including Vice-President Mike Pence who traveled to the region in January, since Trump decided last December to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the PLO executive committee and a top Palestinian negotiator, blasted both Kushner and Greenblatt on Saturday, saying that the pair's visit to the Middle East is actually an attempt to topple the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Abbas also issued a statement saying that the "American delegation has to realize that there's no point in looking for alternatives and illusions that are meant to divide the Palestinian homeland and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state".
Jordanian King Abdullah II, who is expected to meet Trump in Washington on Monday, told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Thursday that there would not be peace in the region without establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Mia Swart, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution Doha Center and an expert on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, said "Palestinians are rightfully skeptical of the proposals made by Kushner".
She said the U.S. finally lost its status as good-faith peace broker in the Middle East after moving its embassy to Jerusalem in May and cutting $250 million early this year to the budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
"None of the U.S. actions indicate a sincere desire to negotiate with all Palestinian sides and take the Palestinian position seriously. A peace plan cannot be imposed on Palestinians," she told China Daily on Sunday.
China has long called for diplomatic and peaceful means to solve the seven-decade long Palestinian-Israeli issue. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Spain on May 17 that the Palestinian issue is the root cause of various problems in the Middle East while the status of Jerusalem is the most sensitive matter for the Palestinian issue.
"China is also willing to make joint efforts with the international community to push for the comprehensive, fair and proper settlement of the Palestinian issue at an early date on the basis of adhering to the two-state solution and the general trend of peaceful dialogue," Wang said.