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Kushner wants 'pragmatic' solution on Palestinian refugees

By AFP - Jul 04,2019 - Last updated at Jul 04,2019

Palestinian children play on a swing at Al Shatee refugee camp in Gaza City on Wednesday (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner hinted on Wednesday that his Middle East peace plan will seek to better integrate Palestinian refugees inside Arab countries as he finalises proposals despite being shunned by the Palestinian leadership.

A week after he convened an economic workshop in Bahrain that dangled the prospect of $50 billion in investment under a peace deal, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser said he will announce the next steps "probably next week".

Kushner, promising a fresh approach to Middle East peacemaking after decades of failed attempts, said the Trump administration deliberately opened with economic incentives and will later give details on core political questions.

But in a conference call with Arab media, Kushner appeared to favour normalisation of the status of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced out of Israel when Israel was created in 1948, as well as their descendants.

Asked about Lebanon — where Palestinian refugees are mostly denied citizenship and many live in squalid camps — Kushner said he believed that the country wanted a “fair” solution.

“I also think that the Palestinian refugees who are in Lebanon, who are denied a lot of rights and don’t have the best conditions right now, would also like to see a situation where there is a pathway for them to have more rights and to live a better life,” Kushner said.

Israel has adamantly opposed a right of return by Palestinian refugees, saying it would effectively end Israel.


Wide Palestinian suspicion 


The Palestinians accuse Trump administration of trying to use money to force pro-Israel solutions and are suspicious of Kushner, a family friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump took the landmark step of recognising occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Kushner earlier suggested that his plan would not mention a Palestinian state, a long-time goal of US diplomacy.

A poll released Wednesday by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research of 1,200 adults across the West Bank and Gaza Strip found that an overwhelming 90 per cent of Palestinians do not trust Trump administration in its stated goal in Bahrain of helping the Palestinian economy.

Kushner said that Trump, who values personal interaction, was open to meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump “likes him very much personally and, at the right time, if they’re willing to engage I believe that they’ll find that they will have an opportunity”, Kushner said.

The United States has also severely slashed funding for the UN refugee body that provides education and health services to five million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The Trump administration has called for the 70-year-old United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to be dismantled, with its work taken over by host countries.

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