Jared Kushner interview transcript: 'We've been working hard on the peace initiative for two years now'

Interview in full: the White House senior adviser's comments on President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan

Jared Kushner speaks to Sky News Arabia in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sky News Arabia
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Jared Kushner, the White House senior adviser, spoke about America's Middle East peace plan and his tour of the region in an interview with Sky News Arabia while visiting Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Here is a transcript of that interview:

What is the purpose of your visit to the UAE and what have you accomplished so far?

Jared Kushner: Thank you, well we are just starting the visit.

We got in last night to Abu Dhabi and we will be going to six countries on this trip. We are very happy to be here today.

We’ve been working on the peace initiative for two years now and we are getting ready to put our plan forward.

As we have gone through this over the last two years we have spent a lot of time consulting with the different stakeholders in the region and getting a lot of good advice and feedback from the different countries.

As we go forward we want to get advice from them on what the best way to proceed is and then also to share with them some of the details of what we are going to be pursuing, especially on the economic vision for all the opportunity that exists if there is peace.

What we have found is that all the conflict does is keep people from having the opportunity to do commerce and to have opportunity and improve their lives. Hopefully, if we can resolve this issue we will be able to see a lot more opportunity for the Palestinian people, for the Israeli people and the people throughout the region.

There have been so many discussions revolving around the Israeli-Palestinian peace move and this has sparked the interest of the media, particularly in the Middle East. But what are the details of this plan that everyone is talking about?

We’ve been able to keep a lot of the details private, which I think is very constructive.

In past negotiations, which we’ve studied, a lot of times details would get out prematurely and that would cause politicians to have to run away from the plan, but the reality is that the situation they are negotiating over hasn’t really changed much in 25 years.

What we’ve tried to do is figure out what is a realistic and what is a fair solution to the issues here in 2019 that can enable people to live better lives and we’ve focused on the following four principles that we’ve used in which to create the plan.

The first principle is to have freedom. We want people to be able to have the freedom of opportunity, the freedom of religion, the freedom to worship, regardless of your faith.

Respect: we want all people to have dignity and to respect each other.

Opportunity: we want people to be able to better their lives and not allow their grandfather’s conflict to hijack their children’s future.

And the final one is security.

I am here in Abu Dhabi and you have a lot of great growth, a lot of great buildings and a lot of great commerce, but if there wasn’t security, people wouldn’t want to be investing here, they wouldn’t want to be living here and they wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the great development and opportunities that are existing.

But if, perhaps, matters have not changed for 22 years as you have mentioned, would you tell us, at least, what are the standards and foundations of this plan, taking into consideration, for instance, Oslo, the Arab peace process or Taba? What is your stand in this regard?

We have looked at all the different initiatives that have been tried over the years and there have been a lot of great attempts at it but unfortunately this problem has been very elusive where we’ve not been able to get people to compromise.

What we’ve focused on is not as much the issues, which we are focused on extensively, but also what’s holding back the Palestinian people from achieving their full potential and what’s holding back the Israeli people from being able to properly integrate with the whole region.

I think that if you look at this whole region today, you have so much opportunity, but you also have some major threats, so by bringing everybody together we are hopeful that they will be able to achieve a new paradigm.

You mention Oslo and some of the past efforts. What we’ve done is really building off a lot of the efforts from the past.

We’ve studied all of the different negotiations, we’ve studied all the different issues. What we are trying to do is provide something that will be very detailed, very in-depth, that will be able to show people what we think is the best outcome that will allow people to put the conflicts of the past behind them and to move forward and look forward to a really prosperous and exciting future.

People following your progress in this region would like to know how you handle the proposal's final status issues.

Right, so that will all come out when we put the details out and I apologise that I am not giving you more details today, but I do promise it’s quite in-depth.

The final status issues are very important issues, but again people have not been able to bridge them for a very long time. You have the Israeli position, you have the Palestinian position and the outcome has to be somewhere in the middle.

So what we will propose is hopefully something where both sides can gain a lot more than they give and where both sides will have to make compromises, but hopefully the benefits far outweigh the compromise.

But the final status issues will be addressed in our plan.

All reports of your visit and tour show that, this time, your focus is on economy. How would economy impact the Palestinian and the Israeli positions with regard to this plan?

Well, I think it won’t just be the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think the economic impact could be felt throughout the entire region, by the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Lebanese.

The political plan, which is very detailed, is really about establishing borders and resolving final status issues.

The goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the borders. If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror, you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a lot more opportunities.

What we’ve done is we’ve studied a lot of the economies that have grown over the last century. If you look at Singapore, you look at Japan, you look at Poland, you see great opportunities where countries have found new opportunities by creating new rules for their economies, allowing free markets to emerge by having centralised investment in different areas, but the goal would be to focus on developing the infrastructure, the rules, the training for a lot of the people, so that you can bring a lot of opportunities and prosperity to the region.

So on this trip we will be very focused on getting the feedback for that because you can’t just resolve an issue where people have been fighting for 70 years, maybe even longer than that, and then hope that they will be best friends tomorrow if you resolve the final status issues.

We hope this economic plan will give people something very exciting to look forward to, so that we can see what a new chapter will look like.

How far are these economic aspects linked with the extent of progress in the political side?

I think the two are very much linked together. I think we have seen a lot of efforts to stimulate the Palestinian economy over the years. The Israeli economy has been booming, but the Palestinian economy has been held back because there is not peace.

Every time there is a terror attack in the West Bank, the people who are the most fearful are the 160,000 workers who cross over into Israel every day because they don’t want their flow restricted.

All the terror attacks from Gaza have eliminated a lot of the workers coming from Gaza into Israel where they would work and get along and do very well, but once there were terror attacks that would hold everything back.

I think what we are finding is that people would really like these issues to be resolved and I think if they are, then I think you will be able to have tremendous growth in areas like the West Bank and Gaza.

So we’ve studied the economies and we think there is a tremendous amount of potential there, but again in order to do that you need to reduce some of the tensions that have existed and figure out how to have the proper investments.

What I’ve found through the world, the leaders in this region, the leaders throughout the world, they do care about the Palestinian people and they would like to find ways to help them achieve what’s been elusive to them for a long time.

Since you have pointed to the subject of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an impending question arises: do you handle the Palestinian lands as a whole and unified entity or do you consider the West Bank and Gaza Strip as two separate entities?

Well, there is physical separation but what we would like to see is them unified under one leadership and come together.

There has been a lot of discussion between Hamas and through Fatah, but I think what the people want is a government that doesn’t have corruption.

They want a government that’s pushing for their interests, a government that’s providing them opportunity and we’re hopeful that if there’s a deal there will be a way at some point to bring both of those places together under one governing structure that can allow the Palestinian people to live the lives that they want.

But, you know, you look what’s happening in Gaza now and you have a terrible situation where you have a terrorist government that puts their aggression and their desire for destruction over the livelihood of the people and the people are really hostages now to their government there and we are hoping to find a way for the government either to decide they want to start caring about their people or to changing that government through negotiation with Fatah.

There exists a relation between the suggested US plan and the confrontation of Iran in the region and also the increasing extremism and terrorism. How will you support this plan of confronting extremism and terrorism?

Well, I think that this is a conflict that has been used for many years to rile up extremism. For the last 70 years the unifying principle of the region has been unifying against Israel, but now what we are seeing in this region is that a lot of the unifying principles are the leaders’ love of their people and the leaders’ desire for their people to live a better life and so you look at the big threats in the region right now and America believes that Iran is the biggest threat in this region.

Everywhere we look where there is destabilisation, where there is terror, where there is rockets, it’s all coming from Iran and their proxies. They are funding a lot of militias, they are funding a lot of terror and that creates instability in the region, which creates refugees, which creates less economic opportunity and that’s really hurting the region.

With regards to this peace process, when will you announce it and will it include mandatory principles or is it a first step to start off with, and will the US be the only one to sponsor it?

Right now we are waiting until after the Israeli election. There’s an election on April 9 and we are going to wait until after that election.

We’ve done a lot of consultation to date with the Israelis. We’ve done a lot of consultation with the Palestinians. We’ve done consultations with a lot of the Arab leaders. We’ve done consultations with people who’ve been involved in the past and we’re actually quite excited about putting our ideas forward and seeing if we can get people to look at this conflict a little bit differently and to try to push forward.

So we will wait until after the election, but when you look at a lot of the past approaches, when you look at things like the Arab Peace Initiative, that’s been out there a long time but it hasn’t worked. It hasn’t brought peace.

We are hoping when this comes out that people will look at it with a fresh perspective and say, here in 2019, is this the right package of compromise for both sides to take in order to leave the past behind and try to start a new chapter where there can be tremendous hope and opportunity in the region.