Jared Kushner’s sleight of hand

Hey presto! Just like that, the refugee issue disappears. Or not. (Hashir Milhan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Blossom is not giving up on this peacemaking malarky in a hurry.

Jared Kushner, the American president’s son-in-law, may be a diplomatic novice (who would have noticed?) but he is not afraid of innovating. As his quest for the Ultimate Deal™ has shown, there is an agility of mind and ability to adapt that is truly mind-boggling.

He has been quick to identify obstacles to peace.

First he blamed Mahmoud Abbas. The increasingly hapless Palestinian Authority leader – whose unflinching support for the peace process has seen him isolated from traditional allies, political rivals, his own people and now finally from his US sponsor – was not willing to “lean into” a final deal.

Abbas’ insistence on some semblance of respect for principles of international law like the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force or moving a civilian population into occupied territories – “talking points,” as Kushner prefers to call them – has rendered him ineligible as a peace partner.

Pivot and adapt

The White House senior advisor and his sidekicks, Vapor Man and Louie, then pivoted to plan B, Rebuilding Gaza Inc.

But since the plan takes the salient points – infrastructure development, the building of a seaport and opening of the airport in Gaza – of a previous US-brokered plan, the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and basically moves it all to Egypt, that too has gained little traction.

The White House “senior advisor” blamed Hamas, which as everyone knows is simply an acronym of “something, something, something, terrorists.” And who could argue with him about that?

It has left a problem, however. Since Palestinian leaders of all persuasions are clearly unfit for the purpose of the Ultimate Deal™, how to proceed?

It’s a kind of magic

Luckily, there is Ludwig Wittgenstein and his (poorly remembered) assertion that philosophical problems are always a confusion of language.

Indeed, Immanuel Kushner has gone one better than the old Austrian beer swiller and reduced the problem to a confusion about a single word: refugees.

It’s simple really: 750,000 people and their millions of descendants are actually under the misapprehension that they are refugees and therefore have rights that need to be addressed. Redefine their status, do away with the UN agency that caters to their needs, pay host countries to settle them and convince them that they are actually not Palestinians at all (another confusion of language) and, hey presto!

They may still be poor, disempowered, dispossessed and unwanted, but they are no longer an issue to be grappled with under the Ultimate Deal™. With the deftest of diplomatic sleights of hand, a thorny problem disappears.

Just like the issue of Jerusalem.

With Israel under siege from a bellicose UN and its belligerent talk about “international law,” what better way for Kushner, Jason Greenblatt (a former settlement guard), and David “aren’t they all Egyptians anyway” Friedman to come to the aid of its nearly defenseless ally?

Will it work?

The thing about magic, it’s all showbusiness. You may think the Statue of Liberty has disappeared, but it’s still there.

Take Jerusalem off the table, find that others won’t play.

Screw your eyes shut, stick your fingers in your ears, sing loudly to yourself as much as you like. The refugees – and their legitimate claims – will not go away.

Pursuing a deal by trying to define root-cause problems out of existence may seem like trailblazing diplomacy. It isn’t. It’s just a waste of time.

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Comments

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A waste of time certainly but just a waste of it? I understand that most of our comrades here are confident that, given enough time, BDS will deliver Palestine but I don't get that.
What I see is the on again-off again, completely frustrating tacit justification for continued occupation coming to an end along with the weak, toothless pawn of "the west"; international law.
Okay fine, the excuse for keeping Palestine in limbo goes and BDS and a civil rights movement becomes the answer. I'm sorry but I still don't see my way to confidence in a good outcome, what with wasted time allowing for the virtual destruction of law and treaty, along with trending nationalism to create a climate where Palestine already feels like it's lost.
Only a couple of years ago this attempt to erase Palestinians in Jordan would have been restricted to far right discussions at most being leaked. Now it seems par for the diplomatic course. People get old and die. Why would anyone think just causes don't?

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I must have been guilty of incoherence since nothing else could be made to fit and that can always be, for anyone lacking an argument. My apologies to the powers that be.

Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an associate editor for The Electronic Intifada and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.