Jared Kushner, the senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, repeatedly taunted Palestinian leaders Wednesday while touting the Middle East peace plan he spearheaded.
President Donald Trump, who faces possible impeachment by the Senate, detailed the plan Tuesday alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces a criminal indictment, at the White House. No Palestinian officials were in attendance after they broke off talks with Kushner in 2017, following Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The plan was rejected ahead of the announcement by Palestinian leaders and widely panned in the U.S. for cutting Palestinians out of the process.
Kushner, who rarely does television interviews, appeared on CNN and Fox News to tout the "great" deal for Palestinians, while repeatedly bashing the Middle Eastern country's leaders.
"You have 5 million Palestinians who are really trapped because of bad leadership. So what we have done is we've created an opportunity for their leadership to either seize or not," Kushner told CNN. "If they screw up this opportunity — which again, they have a perfect track record of missing opportunities. If they screw this up, I think that they will have a very hard time looking the international community in the face, saying they're victims — saying they have rights. This is a great deal for them."
Pressed on the criticism of the plan by both Palestinian leaders and former American diplomats, Kushner again disparaged Palestinian officials.
"What's Palestinian leadership? You're talking about them like they're great diplomats. What are they calling for? They're calling for a 'Day of Rage.' Who do you know that runs a state that when they don't get what they want, they call for a 'Day of Rage?'" Kushner asked, referring to Palestinian demonstrations to protest the announcement of the plan Tuesday.
"The Palestinian leadership have to ask themselves a question: Do they want to have a state? Do they want to have a better life?" Kushner said. "If they do, we have created a framework for them to have it, and we are going to treat them in a very respectful manner. If they don't, they're going to screw up another opportunity like they've screwed up every other opportunity that they've ever had in their existence."
Palestinian leaders rejected the so-called "Deal of The Century" ahead of its announcement and repeated their objections again thereafter.
"We reject it, and we demand the international community not be a partner to it because it contradicts the basics of international law and inalienable Palestinian rights," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday. "It is nothing but a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas doubled down Wednesday on that rejection.
"After the nonsense that we heard today, we say a thousand no's to the 'Deal of The Century,'" he said, according to the Associated Press.
Kushner appeared later Wednesday on Fox News to reiterate his attacks on Palestinian leaders. He dismissed the rejection, arguing that "they said that before they even saw what's in it."
"I think it was much better than they expected," Kushner said of a plan that many U.S. allies in the Middle East decried as an attempt at "annexation of Palestinian lands."
Kushner, who told Sky News Arabia that he read 25 books about the Israel-Palestine conflict, dismissed the criticism of longtime diplomats, as well.
"These people have been professional at not finishing or making deals, and what they don't like as we are not going to do it the same way it's been done before. But the way it's been done before has failed," Kushner said. "So President Trump has been taking a new approach, and again, what we see with them is if they want to get to a conclusion, they have to act like people who are ready for a state. And they are proving through their reaction they are not ready to have a state."
Vox's Alex Ward said this was an "astonishing thing for Kushner to say."
"The White House's lead staffer for finding a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine stalemate says Israel's growth is basically unstoppable. For that reason, he claims, Palestine has no choice but to strike a deal," Ward wrote. "Kushner's plan and his statements will likely serve as a green light to Israeli leadership to expand those settlements. They may explain why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wants a vote on Sunday to annex 30 percent of the West Bank. That could make a fraught issue so much worse."
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Ct., met with Kushner on Tuesday and called his plan a "total abandonment of decades of U.S. Middle East policy."
"This plan was negotiated with no one but the Israelis, and thus it's not a peace plan at all," Murphy tweeted. "Any claim that this plan envisions a Palestinian state is just false. The plan allows Israel to control all security matters inside the Palestinian 'state', and thus it's not a state at all."
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., wrote the "one-sided proposal" a "cynical maneuver calculated to be rejected by the Palestinians and then green-light illegal annexation."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted that the plan would only make the conflict worse.
"Any acceptable peace deal must be consistent with international law and multiple UN resolutions," Sanders wrote. "It must end the Israeli occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination in an independent state of their own alongside a secure Israel. Trump's so-called 'peace deal' doesn't come close, and will only perpetuate the conflict. It is unacceptable."
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., called the proposal "shameful and disingenuous."
"This is not a peace plan," she added. "It is theft. It is erasure."