Kushner Delegation Meets Morocco’s King on First Leg of Middle East Tour

Senior White House advisor and Trump aide Jared Kushner met Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Tuesday May 28 in Rabat. The meeting came as part of a new initiative to drum up Arab support for the Trump administration’s controversial peace plan for the Middle East and to bolster U.S.-Morocco relations.

Jared Kushner’s visit to Morocco is part of a longer tour of the Middle East by a U.S. delegation that also includes Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s advisor on Israel, and Brian Hook, the U.S. representative for Iran. The delegation, which has since visited Amman and Jerusalem, has orchestrated its tour to garner economic backing from Middle Eastern states for the potential economic development of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. 

King Mohammed VI of Morocco

The meeting with King Mohammed VI was the first stage in the delegation’s efforts to strengthen U.S. diplomatic relations with Arab nations, with the aim of securing their support for the U.S. Middle East peace plan. After the meeting, Greenblatt tweeted that he and the delegation had shared an Iftarthe meal that breaks the Muslim daily fast during Ramadanwith the king, and stressed the positive relations between the U.S. and Morocco.

 “Thank you to His Majesty for a special evening and for sharing your wisdom,” Greenblatt wrote, “Morocco is an important friend & ally of the United States.”

The delegation’s tour comes in advance of a U.S.-sponsored economic workshop expected to be held in Manama, Bahrain on June 26 and 27, during which details of the peace plan will be outlined. The workshop will attempt to garner backing for the economic aspects of the plan from Arab states, and will include proposals for resolving the issues at the core of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. After initial hesitation, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt have agreed to send delegates.  Palestinian leaders, who are boycotting the meeting, have urged Egypt and Jordantwo critical players in the peace process as the only Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel—to reconsider.

Kushner, who is the foremost architect of the proposals, outlined the principally economic nature of the administration’s attitude towards achieving peace in a statement in June 2018: 

“We believe we can attract very significant investments in infrastructure from the public and private sectors to make the whole region more connected and to stimulate the economies of the future.” Kushner continued, “This will lead to increases in GDP and we also hope that a blanket of peaceful coexistence can allow the governments to divert some of their funds from heavy investments in military and defense into better education, services, and infrastructure for their people.”

Palestinians contend that any solution must focus on the core issues of the occupation, including reconciliation and refugees, rather than on indirect economic promises.

Despite Kushner’s confidence, the factors that continue to shape the Israel-Palestine issue are political, rather than economic, in nature. Palestinians contend that any solution must focus on the core issues of the occupation, including reconciliation and refugees, rather than on indirect economic promises, and they are suspicious of the intentions of the U.S. administration. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that he did not believe the central issues of the hostilities would be addressed by the workshop, and stressed the political nature of the conflict.

“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political . . . and based on ending the occupation,” he said.

For the workshop to provide any concrete solutions, both sides to the conflict will need to be engaged, as will the powerful entities in the region. So far, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have stated that they will attend the workshop, but certain Palestinian-American community organizations have already rejected it. Many see it as merely an attempt to provide the illusion of legitimacy for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by giving it “Arab cover.” 

Speaking to Al-Jazeera, U.S.-based Palestinian-American economist Basil al-Qudwa said that the aim of the discourse entailed in the Bahrain conference is to allow countries to publicly “normalise their secret ties with Israel.”

“The Saudi-UAE-Bahrain axis is eager to please Trump no matter what the price is,” he continued. “U.S. bias towards Israel is not new or shocking.”

Palestinians anticipate that peace plan proposals will heavily favor Israel. Kushner has also hinted that they will not contain endorsements for the creation of a separate Palestinian state. Two long-standing UN resolutions have advocated for the two-state solution. The rejection of this solution, while not the historical position of the U.S., is not a new position of the Trump administration. It formally declared the whole of Jerusalem the capital of Israel in 2017, brushing aside Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. 

Kushner’s inexperience and Palestinian hostility to the peace plan as essentially throwing money at a problem that is far more complex and deep-seated than pure economics will be a significant challenge to its success. Indeed, Palestinian reaction to what has been divulged about the plan so far does not bode well for the acceptance of the rest of the proposal.