Transcript of Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner’s interview with Al Arabiya
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, in an effort to achieve a peace breakthrough with Israel that will be a tough sell for Palestinians.
Under Trump's proposed Middle East peace plan announced at a White House ceremony attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.
In exchange, Israel would agree to accept a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood were being negotiated.
Below is the full transcript of White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner’s full interview with Al Arabiya following the announcement of the “Deal of the Century”:
Al Arabiya: The president just called for a two-state solution. Is this state delayed by four years? Is it conditional on certain aspect of Israeli security? Explain to us what you mean by a two-state solution?
Jared Kushner: Today is a very big breakthrough in this conflict that has been going on for a very long time. For many years of no peace process has Israel ever agreed to allow the Palestinians to have a state. This state will double the size of the territory they have now, and it will allow the Palestinians to be in a position where they can really have all the things they need. So, in order to be in a position where you have economy and grow, you want to have good governance, you want to have good property rights, you want to have judiciary system that’s fair. You want to have all the things that you need in order to attract investment, allow people to live a better life. So, the fundamental question that we always asked ourselves with every aspect of this plan is, is will this allow the Palestinian people to live a better life. The answer undoubtedly with this plan is yes. It will this plan keep Israel and Palestinians safe and secure and the answer from this plan is yes. So, what we’ve laid out today is an over 80-page document. It’s very detailed, that will allow the principals that we discussed for years that the Arab peace initiative. But it gives very detailed and descriptive ways for how to go about resolving this situation and the basis of a two-state solution. So, for many years Israel has not agreed to a two-state solution it took President Trump who is very, very close with Israel. Who’s done a lot of things for Israel, who has credibility with Israel in order to convince the Israelis that it was time for Palestinians to have a state of their own.
Al Arabiya: And the land, there was so much talk, is it over 70 percent of the West Bank? Is it 80 percent of the West Bank? What exactly is incorporated in the plan for the new state?
Kushner: What you have now, the land is more than double, the usable land that the Palestinians have now. It’s double the size of what they have. And you asked before the timing of the state, I didn’t answer that directly, which I should, is that the Palestinians can have a state as soon as they are willing to step up and get one. So right now…
Al Arabiya: So it could be tomorrow if they agreed?
Kushner: If they show up to the table and agree to the different terms and conditions and these are not wild terms and conditions. These are terms of conditions that every other state in the world has to abide by. Nobody is entitled to just become a state because you want to be. You have to show the world that you’re ready to be a state. So, if they’re willing to abide by the conditions of what a normal state will be like, and they want to go and do that, the world is ready to help them do that and they can start tomorrow but it’s really up to their leadership to take that path. But I will say the Palestinian leadership has a perfect track record of not making a deal. And so, they talk about all these different things, and they talk about all these empty promises, but they have no success in making a deal. And as a result, the Palestinian people are the ones to suffer. So, my hope is that we put out a framework and gotten Israel a much stronger party to show that they’re willing to make a huge historic compromises with the hope that now the Arab world will support it and show the Palestinian leadership that it’s time to stop corruption in the West Bank and it’s time to stop corruption in Gaza. The Palestinian people deserve a better future. There is now a real framework on the table for them to have a state if the leadership is courageous and smart enough to try to pursue it.
Al Arabiya: The president said that Jerusalem will be the undivided capital of Israel. Yet, he says east Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian state. Is this contradictory?
Kushner: No it’s not at all. So, the boundaries of Jerusalem have been changing for years and years. The boundary of Jerusalem…boundary of 1967 is different than it is today. The people have different definitions for what defines the territory of Jerusalem. Let me talk about the part that is important to the Muslim World. The most important part for the Muslim World is not where you draw the line. It’s the Haram al Sahreef which is the mosque. The president today reaffirmed and thanked the King of Jordan for the special role that he plays and got Israel to do the same thing. And then said the status quo will be preserved there. And in addition to that Israel is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that all Muslims, any Muslim from Saudi Arabia, any Muslim from Indonesia, any Muslim from Pakistan. Any Muslim from Bahrain, anyone who wants to go and visit the mosque is now welcome to do so. And so that is an amazing thing that should happen. Muslims should be able allowed to go there and pray and so I found that talking to a lot of people, is that people were concerned that the mosque was not safe and that the status quo was at a threat. But today, Israel has agreed to live by that status quo. The president has preserved that. And any Muslim that wants to get up and pray at Haram Al Shareef, is welcome to do so.
Al Arabiya: Including the Palestinians? Because as you know, Israel restricts the entry to the Aqsa mosque by many Palestinians. Actually, they have to be over the age of 50. They restricting their movement?
Kushner: First of all, there’s a lot of misinformation that has been put out for years on what Israel does and doesn’t do. If people are willing to go in and pray peacefully at the mosque. They’re not going to go there and they to incite violence and hatred and destruction, then Israel will welcome them fully. You know, Jerusalem is a very complicated subject in the Middle East. But the reality is that it’s home of the three major religions. It’s the home of Catholics, Jews, Muslims. And it should be a city that brings everybody together. What people have done, in Saudi Arabia, you see a lot of this, where you have radicals that try to use radical ideology as a way to divide people and get people to stir violence and hatred and that’s very destructive. And you think about all of the lost opportunities in the region that’s occurred because people have tried to stir violence in the name of Jerusalem. So, the most important element is that the Haram Al Sahreef is safe, the King of Jordan’s role is secured, and most importantly, any Muslim who wants to come and pray at the mosque is able to pray there. And that’s, I think, the most important component in all of this.
Al Arabiya: The Jordanians just issued a statement. As you know for Palestinians, it’s not just the Aqsa mosque. It’s the Christian areas as well. The Holy Sepulcher, the Christian Quarter in the Old City, Who’s in charge of that in this plan?
Kushner: So, there’s different interpretations of who has the rights to that. But, what’s most important about this plan is it allows anyone who wants to come to visit and to be able to worship. If you’re a Jew, a Muslim, if you’re Christian, you can go and you can do it in that way. And so, the way that it has been governed now will be the exact same way that it is. And that will allow the people to know that they have the freedom to worship. I will remind you that between 1948 and 1967, that was a period where people who were not Muslim were not welcome to pray at their sites and since Israel in I967 was able to take that area in a defensive war after they were attacked, they were attacked, they fought back, they took over. They immediately passed something called the protection of holy places law. Where they took funds that they didn’t have at the time. They restored all the different areas and since then they’ve made it a very welcoming environment. It’s a lot of the internal geopolitical struggles that’s actually kept a lot of Muslims from visiting a site that’s so special to the Muslim world.
Al Arabiya: Also just to clarify on the capital, no Palestinian state will be in the walls of the Old City but outside instead. Will it be in Abu Dis?
Kushner: So, we have a map, the map will be released. It’s better to be looking at the map instead of using concepts. We tried to be very precise since words can be twisted. We have a map and we have an 80-page plan and I encourage you to look at it. It provides for a Palestinian state with the capital in East Jerusalem. Look the issue where the capital is of the Palestinian state was not originally a Palestinian but a Jordanian claim for land and they relinquished that claim and that’s okay. And again, they’ve been fighting all these years to get a state. This is the first time they have a state on the table. The dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is about territorial dispute and security dispute, and that’s about where you draw the line. The outcome to that is arbitrary cause its two sides agreeing on something that is maybe based in history or maybe based in negotiation. So what we have here is an opportunity. If the Palestinian leadership doesn’t like where we’re drawing the line, let then show up at the table and let them negotiate and say “Hey we would like to include this part here and that part there”.
You’re not going to get that by doing a day of rage, all doing a day of rage shows is that they’re not ready to have a state. That’s not what people with states do. The people of the Arab world know that and they have been hearing the same set of clichés for so many years that this is what their rights are without ever having any counter-facts so the biggest thing we are fighting against are just these myths that have been put out there. And they’re fairytales because they have never been achieved, they will never be achieved. But with the way that we are fighting against this fairytale is by having a very logical premise so we have a very detailed proposal and, again, if Palestinians feel like if it’s not the right thing, they want to change something, they can go on page 13, 42, 25 and say “ on this line we want this, on that line want that, on the map we want to move this here” but whole-hearted rejections will show the world that they are not interested in peace, they have never been interested in peace and quite frankly in the Palestinian areas, you have a lot of people that are very vested in the status quo. You have a ton of corruption, you have a lot of money that’s been going in forever, a lot of the leaders are wealthy, their families are wealthy, their friends are wealthy but the people have been trapped in squalor. If the Arab and the Muslim world really does care about the Palestinian people, this is the best opportunity we’ve ever had to help them.
And so, when have to break old myths and talking points and we have to push forward to create a better future. I’ll just say this final thing and its if we do resolve this conflict in the region, think about the possibility of connecting the Middle East in a peaceful harmony with economic opportunity. We have joint threats. The biggest threat right now is not Israel. In Saudi Arabia, there are no Saudi Arabians who have been killed by Israelis. Iran is the big threat, Iran is who’s shooting rockets at your airports and shooting rockets at your palaces, you know from Yemen with the Houthis. It’s not Israel, Israel could be the biggest ally to Saudi Arabia in terms of helping them have more advanced technology and defense and being safe. And again, the extremism that has fomented from having this issue unresolved is at a big detriment to the entire Middle East.
Al Arabiya: Talking about the Palestinian people and their suffering, with almost five million living as refugees in different countries and the rest in Gaza and the West Bank, you are saying that there is no right of return. Where are these people going and what’s going to happen to the refugees and are you going to compensate them?
Kushner: Right, so first of all, this is again another myth that has been created over so many years but, you do have a lot of people, you have 5 million people who are living in refugee camps. How we got here is less important than the fact that we’re here today. We have 70 million refugees in the world, America is the most generous country in the world to funding refugees and we want to make sure these refugees have an opportunity to have a better life. So, what this plan calls for is a Palestinian state that should have the ability to absorb a lot of these refugees or these refugees should work with their host countries whether its Lebanon or Jordan to be able to get residency there.
Al Arabiya: Do you think that it’s easy considering the ethnic makeup of Lebanon and Jordan?
Kushner: Well do you think it’s easy for them to go back to Israel given the fact that they’ve been threatening Israel with terrorism for all these years? Israel has this much land in the Middle East. It’s 500 times more Arab and Muslim land than Israel has. So you would have thought there’s 800,000 Jewish refugees and there was 800,000 Palestinian refugees. The 800,000 Jewish refugees were absorbed, and the 800,000 Palestinian refugees who went to Kuwait, they got kicked out of Kuwait, they went to different places, right, because they sided with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War when America was siding with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and all those people.
And you have a situation now where these people have turned from 800,000 to 5 million. You have over 50 Muslim countries and these people weren’t absorbed over time, that’s because these people have been used as a pawn in the broader Middle East. But you have a different leadership today. The leadership that I’m seeing in the Middle East, whether it’s leadership in Egypt, in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in Qatar, in UAE, in Bahrain, in Oman, the leadership wants to see the people live a better life. They are tired of using the issue of hatred of Israel as a way to divert from their own internal shortcomings. A lot of the countries are doing the hard things and making the necessary reforms and they’re trying better to give their people a better future. That will never be possible unless we get this issue resolved.
So for all these refugees, we’ve put together a $50 billion economic plan and there will be a compensation fund and we’ll try to find as much money as we can. Again, I don’t know where that money exists, I mean who owes them that money. People have spoken about this pot of money for years. People go around to all these countries, and people will be generous because $50 billion, but the big thing is that we have a $50 billion economic plan that will invest in the economy of Egypt, the economy of Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza. And it will help make the Palestinian state become a thriving Palestinian state. And that was the great part about Bahrain because all the great businesspeople from around the world showed up in one place and said we are willing to help the Palestinian people if they are willing to help themselves. And so again, the biggest problem there that everyone cited there to getting high-paying jobs and economic growth was not Israel. The biggest problem was bad leadership, bad rules, and fear of terror.
Al Arabiya: Would you absorb refugees in North America?
Kushner: We do have refugee programs every year but again there are a lot of Muslim Arab countries that have made the Palestinian issue a major issue, they’ve given it in all these speeches, in all the same talking points, but this issue hasn’t been done. They should take some responsibility and step up if they really care about the Palestinian people, then let them show it. Stop with empty words. The time of empty words has led to this status quo today and which has held people captive in a bad situation and not led to progress. I will say that America has given more money to the Palestinians than any other country in the world. America has shown that they care about the issue and now we spend the time and effort to try and put forward a plan. We’ve built a lot of capital with the state of Israel and we’ve used that capital to get Israel to offer a map and a state, two things that have never happened before. This is a real opportunity and I hope the Palestinian leadership has the courage and the sense to pursue it.
Al Arabiya: Let’s talk about settlements. You are asking Israelis to freeze settlements, does that mean the four big settlements in the West Bank and also the outpost settlements? Or certain areas?
Kushner: Again, we have a map that’s out there. It's a conceptual map. We’re going to have to spend the next couple of months turning it into a technical map. And that’s the one that we’re really going to work off of. But again, there is no final map right now so if the Palestinian leadership decides that they have changes to the map, they want to do things different, let them show up to the table, let them show up to the table, let them sit down with the Israelis. I think the Israelis would be flexible on certain things. Some things they won’t be flexible on some things they will be flexible on. But to make a final peace with the Palestinians, I think you’ll see the Israelis do a lot of things you’d be surprised off. And again, America would like to see this resolved.
Al Arabiya: If the Palestinians reject this plan does this mean that Israel can start implementing it tomorrow?
Kushner: Not tomorrow. What we’re going to do is go through the process of having a technical map drawn that shows what this map is but look, the way the map is that way it is, is because you have 25 years of inability to make a deal. The realities are the realities, I didn’t create this situation, I inherited this file, this situation. If we don’t do this deal that we’re going to do, this situation it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse, to the point you can’t make a deal. Before going into government, I was in the real estate and I know how to make it work. It’s difficult to come up with a construct where you have a continuous Palestinian state where you can drive from one end to the bottom through bridges, tunnels, roads. We figured it out, it was not easy. And then we were able to sit with Israel and get them to agree to freeze settlement for four years. That has never been done before. And get them to agree to a Palestinian state and get them to agree to a map.
So, we have done a lot of hard work to make this opportunity possible. The question comes down to, what will the Palestinian leadership do. Again, they always miss the opportunity and everyone in the Middle East jokes about it, but this isn’t funny.
There is 5 million people whose lives could be better off if the Palestinian leadership has the sense to come to the table and make a deal. And again, under President Trump’s leadership, we’ve created this opportunity that’s never been created before. Again, nobody ever gets everything they want in a complicated situation. It’s the hardest problem in the world but if we have good leadership, that maybe we do maybe don’t, then my sense is that wean change the paradigm forever and be very, very exciting.
Al Arabiya: If the Palestinian refuse and they say you are actually punishing them, you cut off the aid, you closed their office in Washington, and you declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, you gave the four settlements to the Israelis, you gave them security for the Jordan Valley. What is there for them to entice them to come to the negotiating table?
Kushner: So what I would tell them is to take repeatability for their own actions. We cut off their aid because they came out and said terrible things about America. America’s aid is not something that is guaranteed. If they went out and insulted the Saudi Arabian king, I bet the king would stop giving them money too. That's just the way the world works. We weren’t punishing them for any other reason than for their bad actions. We moved the capital to Jerusalem because that's always been the capital. We shut their office in America because they had agreement in the law that allowed them to have an office, they said they wouldn’t do certain things and they went and did those things. So, it’s not about us looking to punish them but they have to follow certain rules. If they cannot follow basic simple rules, then how do you expect them to run a state. So, what we're doing is we are creating one last opportunity for them, we’re telling them that their neighbor Israel, which is the stronger party has agreed to have them have an independent state. We’ve created guidelines for it. We created parameters for it.
Now, again, maybe this leadership doesn’t have what it takes, maybe there will be future leadership that will come up. And that’s why we ask for four years because if the current leadership makes a bad decision, which again they have a very good track record of being irresponsible, making bad decisions. Just look at the state of where their people are. Right? We can't say that the leadership is doing a good job if people are still stuck where they are. They missed every opportunity to make a deal. So, if they screw this up, which is a very high chance that they will, then we'll be in a position where hopefully we have four years to work this out. I do hope that all the Arab leaders and Arab people throughout the region who care about the Palestinians will come together and tell them that this is an opportunity, don't blow that like you've blown every opportunity you've have had.