DOHA, Qatar— Things continue to not look great for senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner’s push for a Middle East peace deal.
How could this be? It’s not for a lack of meetings, of which there have been 37 in the almost two years since Donald Trump took office, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday in an on-stage interview at the Doha Forum in Qatar. Erekat himself has met with Kushner and others in the Trump administration 33 times, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has had four summit meetings of his own. But Erekat’s last meeting with Kushner took place more than a year ago and it did not go well, according to his account of the situation.
In fact, you could fairly describe it as a disaster. Kushner revealed President Trump’s plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, blowing up a long-standing agreement by US presidents to hold back on such a move until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved. It didn’t go well from there.
Rather than trying to shoehorn Erekat’s description of what happened into the usual news article format, here’s a transcript of Erekat’s account of his final meeting with Jared Kushner — at least for the time being — which happened on Nov. 30, 2017. Less than a week later, President Trump announced publicly he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
EREKAT: “The last conversation I had with Mr Kushner was in the White House — the 37th meeting.
I tell him, ‘Jared, the president is supposed to sign the waiver not to move the embassy.’
He said, ‘We’re not going to sign.’
I said, ‘What do you mean we’re not going to sign? The president promised us in the White House that he would not take any step that may preempt or prejudge Jerusalem, not before negotiations.’
He said, ‘It’s our business and we will conduct our policies according to our interests.’
I told him, ‘Look: if you do this, you will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’
He replied, ‘Don’t threaten me.’
I said, ‘Read my lips: You will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’
He said, ‘You don’t know the changes that are happening around you in the Arab world.’
I told him, ‘The best thing for me is to be a student — so teach me.’
‘DON’T BE SARCASTIC,’ he shouted.
I said, ‘I’m not being sarcastic. What do you mean by changes? Do you think Arab countries will open embassies in Tel Aviv and accept Jerusalem, with the al-Aqsa mosque, as Israel’s capital? To them Jerusalem is a red line — all of them! Saudis, Qataris, Egyptians, Jordanians, Bahrainis. So what are you talking about?’
He said, ‘This is our business, our policies.’
I said, ‘If you do this, you will bring Israelis and Palestinians to brink of disaster.’
Theodore Roosevelt once said the White House is an office of international morality. And he’s right. But this White House needs giant statesmen, not real estate agents.”
BuzzFeed is a media partner of the Doha Forum.