A U.S. delegation led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner held talks Wednesday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II about ways to revive the Mideast peace process.
The Americans are seeking to finalize details of a proposed $50 billion economic development plan for the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran and senior adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, are part of the delegation, which will also visit Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
In Amman, Abdullah reaffirmed his position that the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel is the only way to resolve the long-simmering crisis, a statement from Jordan’s royal court said.
The king also said that any peace plan needed to be implemented in accordance with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which called on Israel to pull back from all land it occupied in 1967 in exchange for normalized Israeli-Arab relations.
Jordanian political analyst Osama al-Sharif said that while Jordan’s position is clear, it isn’t yet known what Kushner is offering on the political front.
“We only know the Jordanian position. We don’t know what Kushner has proposed with the king,” al-Sharif said. “Jordan’s position as reiterated by the king is very clear. It is the same position as the rest of the world — Russia, China, EU and Arab countries — in their latest Arab summit resolution. They reaffirmed their Arab Peace Initiative as the benchmark, as well as the U.N. resolutions. We know what the Jordanian position is all about.
“We don’t know the political component of what Kushner has to offer. We know bits and pieces from the unilateral decisions that [U.S. President Donald] Trump had taken from two years with regard to Jerusalem, attempts to defund UNRWA [the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], the right of Palestinians return to Palestine. These unilateral positions have preempted the political component because they are final-status issues that need to be negotiated between the Palestinians and the Israelis. If these issues are no longer on the table … then what is there to be discussed?”
Arab observers have viewed the U.S. economic plan proposed by Kushner with suspicion, possibly signaling trouble for Jordan because it fails to address key issues, such as an independent Palestinian state, Israeli occupation and the Palestinians’ right to return to homes from which they fled or were expelled after Israel’s creation in 1948.
Jordan hosts millions of Palestinians who poured into the country in two waves, after Israel’s creation and following the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
The largely desert country which has few resources and relies heavily on international donors, including $1 billion a year from Washington, is home to 9.5 million people, more than half of them of Palestinian origin.
Abdullah also has repeatedly ruled out a confederation with the Palestinians, or giving up custodianship of Jerusalem holy sites, calling them “red lines.”
Al-Sharif said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi will present Kushner with similar concerns when they meet in Cairo. Abdullah visited el-Sissi recently to make sure both Arab leaders are in agreement.
“The joint statement after the king met with Sissi in Cairo two days ago: Jordan and Egypt are on the same page with regard to the Palestinian issue,” al-Sarif said. “At least for the time being, Egypt has sent a couple of messages that it does not want to be involved in the Trump peace plan at this stage and reiterates the common Arab position that there has to be a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital. Kushner will meet with Sissi and we don’t know what kind of message will come out from the Egyptian side.”
Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have signed a peace treaty with Israel. In Amman, recent protests have been staged against what has been dubbed Kushner’s “deal of the century.”