Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
Special Briefing via Telephone by Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to US President Donald Trump
July 3, 2019
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the senior official conference call. At this time, all participants are in the listen only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session and instructions will be given at that time. If you should require assistance during the call, please press star and zero and an operator will assist you offline. Also, a reminder, today’s teleconferencing is be recorded. At this time, we’ll turn the call over to your host, Mr. Christiaan James. Please go ahead sir.
Moderator: Greetings to everyone from the U.S. International Media Hub in London. I’d like to welcome our participants dialing in and thank you all for joining our discussion today. Today’s call will review outcomes of the successes from last week’s economic workshop from peace to prosperity in Bahrain. And today our speaker is Mr. Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States. We’ll begin today’s call with opening remarks from Mr. Kushner and then we will turn to your questions. We’ll try to get to as many as we can during the time we have. A reminder this call is on the record and remarks can be used and attributed to Mr. Kushner. With that, I will turn it over to Mr. Jared Kushner.
Mr. Kushner: Thank you very much Christiaan and thank you everyone for taking the time to join us today. I would say this morning, but I think for a lot of you it’s this afternoon. So I just wanted to do a quick recap of a couple of days in that we did in Bahrain. I think it was a very successful couple of days. You know when we came up with the idea, we thought it would be good to bring some folks together to put forward the economic plan that we’ve been working on – put it forward, get some feedback on it, and then from there be able to move forward. We were overwhelmed by the response that we got. Every country that we invited showed up and we had a very, very big crowd. We got a lot of very senior business leaders from all throughout the world, all the great companies and what we saw from there. So even actually at the end had to turn people away because a lot of people were trying to get in last minute. And what we saw from this was that there is a lot of interest in the world in helping the Palestinian people and that the constant theme we heard from the speakers was that the plan is very technical, very credible, ambitious. It’s achievable, but it can’t be implemented without a peace deal and it can’t be implemented without good governance because without good governance, people will not want to invest in the area.
But if there is a situation where these issues can be resolved, then there is a big desire from the international community to try to come in and help out. So the technical feedback – the plan now has been downloaded over a million times, which is well beyond our expectations, which means that we’ve really gotten people looking at this and thinking about it. We’ve had very little technical criticism of the plan. I think everyone thinks it’s a well thought out plan. It’s comprehensive. It definitely draws on some work that’s been done in the past. But it also had a lot of new ideas in it as well so it’s really something that we put together trying to come up with the best way to move forward. And I think that we’ve been actually surprised at how little technical criticism we’ve gotten and we think that it’s been widely praised as a very serious approach and a very comprehensive effort to try and do it. I think we’ve definitely started a discussion in the Arab world about the Palestinians’ future and the capabilities of the current leadership to help them achieve that future.
I think people are glad the Palestinians are starting to see maybe that it’s really not the Israelis who are responsible for their problems and their lack of opportunity. A lot of it is their leadership, and you know what, we’re trying to do through this effort by putting forward an economic vision and then by putting forward a political proposal for a political solution is to give their leadership the opportunity to engage in something that can help them resolve these issues and start their people being on a path towards living better lives. And I think that we’ve outlined a very thoughtful, detailed work product that a lot of people have given high praise to. Another thing that we saw from this conference is that over the last two years we have made a lot of progress in terms of the Middle East accepting Israel as a reality and as a real country. We believe this trend will continue. You know there is – there will be a point in the future where there will be normalization with Israel and the rest of the Arab world. And when that happens, it will lead to a much more stable and safer Middle East and there’ll be a lot more economic potential and opportunity for all people in the region. We believe that again the discussion that we’ve started is a very, very healthy one. I think a lot of people have been surprised at how this has been a different discussion. We tried to bring in different points of view and different people in a different way of looking at this problem. A lot of the people who have been involved in this for a long time who have failed have criticized this for not being done in the traditional way, but the traditional approach to this has not worked.
But we have a very strong opinion that we believe that if you’re not outlining what a future can look like and how it can be a prosperous and exciting one, then the opportunity to ever bridge the gap on the political issues is significantly diminished. So we believe that by leading with the economic plan and by trying to get this finalized, it gives us the opportunity to help the people in the region come together and see what the future can look like if there is a political solution. So we believe that it provides the proper context and framing through which people ultimately will view the potential solutions that we’re going to propose on the political issue and hopefully it leads to again progress on an issue that quite frankly has been stuck in the mud for so long. We’ve tried to bring new thinking to a problem that has not had a lot of new thinking and a lot of people have been very pleased and excited by the efforts we’ve made to try and do that. And so that’s really where we are. I’m happy to take some questions, but overall we were very, very pleased with the way that the Bahrain conference went on and we had a lot of speakers coming who I didn’t know what they would say. But the fact that there was such a consistent theme about the fact that the plan is a good plan, it’s a thoughtful plan, it’s an achievable plan, but we need to have the right environment and the right governance in order to achieve it.
It was basically the theme that came out throughout the entire time and I’ll say just the other thing from our point of view is that when you put out, I find in politics, people are usually afraid to put out details because you get criticized the details. We did the opposite. We obviously have confidence in our work. We’ve peer reviewed it extensively. We had a real effort to try to do it thoughtfully and meticulously. And the fact that we put out 140 pages of very detailed proposal, the most detailed economic proposal that’s ever been put out on this topic and the fact that there’s been I’d say almost no technical criticism of what we’ve done, we’ve gotten some constructive suggestions that it’s very reassuring that we’ve done the right work product and that it’s headed in a good direction. With regards to the Palestinian leadership, I’ll just say this – that you know, obviously I think they made a strategic mistake by not engaging on this. I think that they look very foolish by trying to fight against this. They’re saying well you can’t have this without the political issues. We’ve been very explicit from the beginning that this conference is not about the political issues. The political issues we’ll get to at the right time and that we were laying out a vision for what could be if we’re able to resolve the political issues.
And so you know what we’ve been doing is we put out a vision of hope and prosperity for the Palestinian people. And quite frankly the Palestinian leadership, I’m not quite sure what they’re selling to the people, but their argument against it has not been one that we found to be substantive or even comprehensible. So it’s been more hysterical and erratic and not terribly constructive. So again you know we believe that the goal of leadership should be to figure out how to keep their people safe and to give their people opportunity for prosperity. And we have not seen the Palestinian leadership take any constructive steps towards trying to find ways for their communities to be safer or for their people to be more prosperous. And so again, the president was very clear that he would like to see a solution to this issue. He cares about Palestinian people. He’d like to see this issue that’s been stuck for too long be resolved and he’s going to work hard to try and bring a solution to it. But again, the Palestinian leadership at some point will have to step up and they have to show that they want to see their people live better lives. And we look forward to seeing what will happen.
So let’s open up some questions.
Operator: Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen on the phone lines. To place herself in queue, please press star followed by one at this time. Once again for your question, you may queue up by pressing star followed by one. In [inaudible] just a few moments as questioners queue up and for [inaudible].
Moderator: Mostapha Zarou of Al Arabiya who asks has any pledging been scheduled to fire up the Palestinian economy? If not, when are we likely to see it happening?
Mr. Kushner: So again the whole notion on this is that we put together a plan and this plan happens in the event there is a peace plan – a peace deal. So again, this is not about let’s go ahead and start investing money in this area. People have tried that for a long time and unfortunately you know either you have conflict that breaks out in Gaza and then a lot of the infrastructure and investment that’s made gets destroyed and the progress gets disrupted. So this is a big plan that we don’t want to start until there’s an actual peace understanding in a way that we believe is fair and long term viable. And again, if you want to ever have a deal that’s viable, there has to be economic opportunity associated with it because otherwise people won’t have an exciting future to look forward to. And I think that if they see this deal happen – they see a peace deal happen and their lives aren’t getting better, I don’t think that there will be a sustainable peace. So we see this as a critical component to any peace deal. With regards to pledging, I think a lot of the countries who attended are countries that care about the Palestinian people. A lot of the big donors to the Palestinians right now give money.
There’s not a lot of accountability and there’s not a lot of transparency and there’s not a lot of results to what comes from the money that they’re giving and a lot of them are very, very frustrated, but nobody’s really ever offered an alternative pathway to invest that money. What we’ve done is created an alternative and that stimulated a lot of great discussion. We continue to speak to a lot of the big donors to the Palestinians and we’ll continue to talk with them about the fact that we think this is a much more long term viable pathway for them to utilize their investment in the Palestinian people to create better growth, sustainability, opportunity, and the situation that we believe can actually become very hopeful and very exciting. One thing that I thought was interesting was we had a couple representatives there from African countries and they said well the Palestinian leadership isn’t interested in this, please come to our countries because we would love to get this attention and this focus from the business community from America and from the international community. So I thought that was something that was quite funny and actually makes a lot of sense. So I think that we’re continuing to have discussions again. We’ll make some more announcements at a future time.
Moderator: All right. Our next question is from Alain Dargham of MTV Lebanon.
Question: Thanks for this opportunity. I would like to ask you: do Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have the right to return to their home or do you [inaudible] look at those countries to naturalize political refugees in return for compensation?
Mr. Kushner: Right. So again we’re going to address that when we get to the political aspects of the plan, but again that that deals more with the political situation.
But again, look, you know, you do have a situation when this whole thing started when you had 800,000 Jewish refugees that came out of all the different- all the different Middle Eastern countries and you had 800,000 roughly Palestinian refugees. And what’s happened to the Israeli, to the Jewish refugees, is they’ve been absorbed by different places where in the Arab world has not absorbed a lot of these refugees over time and so you know this situation exists, you know, because it exists. And you know, and when we put out a political solution, we’re going to try to put forward the best proposed solutions that we think are pragmatic, achievable, and viable in this day and age. You know it’s very easy on this file to find reasons why we shouldn’t do something and maybe that’s why it’s still in place for so long. But I think that the people of Lebanon would love to see a resolution to this issue- one that’s fair. And I also think that the refugees, the Palestinian refugees, who are in Lebanon who are denied a lot of rights and who 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. So we will address that when we get to the political plan.
Moderator: All right – we’ll take another question from the Arabic side. Mohamed Abdullah Ali of Egypt TV asks: Does the peace plan include the establishment of economic projects for the Palestinians in the Sinai? And what is the role of Egypt in the peace plan?
Jared Kushner: Right- so right now there is no projects for the Palestinians in the Sinai. The Sinai belongs to Egypt and it’s up to Egypt to do in the Sinai what they’re going to want to do there. Look you know President Sisi has been a great friend to President Trump and he’s been somebody who has given us a lot of advice. He’s not shy with his points of view and so he has very strong – he has very strong opinions. He obviously doesn’t want to have terrorism or conflict. He believes very strongly in religious tolerance and respect for each other. And he really wants to see people of economic opportunity like he’s worked very hard to create in Egypt. So he’s done that. He’s very focused on the core religious issues and he’s given us some advice on that and, you know, he has a very strong point of view and he cares a lot about the Palestinian people. But you know, he also wants to see the region become stable and he recognizes that it’s something that will take courageous leadership from everybody to try and make a breakthrough. And we’ll see what we’re able to do with that.
Moderator: Our next question is from Yousef al Ustaz of Al Ghad TV.
Question: Yes. Hi. Thank you for this opportunity. Many times you mentioned for the Palestinian leadership. My question is do you also see the Palestinian leadership and especially the President Abbas are like partners in the peace process from the U.S. administration point of view?
Mr. Kushner: Look, I have a lot of respect for President Abbas.
So I think that he’s devoted his life to trying to make peace. And I think that he’s had a couple of setbacks along the way, right? So losing Gaza was a setback for him to Hamas.
You know he’s had a couple attempts at peace processes where he was close and maybe he was close – maybe it wasn’t close. But what happened was there were leaks ,there was, you know distrust, and it didn’t happen for whatever reason. I do believe in his heart that he wants to make peace. And my hope is that we’re able to give him an opportunity to try and achieve that. Look, you know, we’ve – so one way that we’ve approached this process which maybe has been different from how people have approached it in the past is, number one is we try not to make the same mistakes that have been made before us.
So we’ve definitely taken a different approach that has been done, but we’re not going to get into the same tired discussions that lead to nowhere, which is quite frankly what a lot of the efforts over the last five, six, seven years led to. There was nothing that got really that close because quite frankly I think the parties had grown too far apart on a lot of these issues. So we’re not looking to do it the same way. Number two, is we’re trying to build a rational foundation, a very detailed foundation. So you see how detailed the economic plan that we’ve put out is. And when you see the actual peace plan document, it’s just as detailed and it’s a very technical document that will go through how the Palestinians and Israelis can coexist in the most constructive way where there’s security, there’s power, and there’s opportunity and dignity and for both people and we think that it’s the most rational, defensible set of proposals. And so if you’re coming into this conflict and you have no context on kind of the way that the technocrats have historically spoken about these issues and you read the document we’re putting out, you’ll say this is highly logical, it makes a lot of sense, and it’s a real pathway forward that could help improve people’s lives and lead to a more stable, safer, more prosperous region in this area, which has so much potential and I think what we were able to exhibit from the workshop is that there is a ton of potential if we’re courageous enough, and if we’re – and if we’re optimistic enough, and if we’re smart enough and if we work hard enough to try and achieve it.
So I think that you know what we’ve done also is we haven’t allowed the process to be hijacked by people who have not been successful with it. So again I think that, you know, President Abbas and certain people around him who are very uncomfortable with the way that we’ve approached this and their natural instinct is to attack and to say crazy things and you know quite frankly we don’t find that to be terribly constructive. So I think we’ve been very steady in the way that we’ve approached it. We’ve continued to be thoughtful – we’ve continued to be meticulous. We’ve continued to do our work and we haven’t lost sight of our goal which is to figure out how to put forward the best set of proposals that we think can help give both the Israeli and the Palestinian people the opportunity to live a better life. Again, I hope that when as we continue to progress, you know, our door is always open to the Palestinian people – to the Palestinian leadership. Again, President Trump is very fond of President Abbas. He likes him very much personally. And at the right time, if they are willing to engage, I believe that they’ll find that they’ll have an opportunity. Whether they’re willing to take that opportunity will be up to them.
But what we’re trying to do in our role in this is create an opportunity for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to potentially resolve a conflict that has been unresolved for too long. If people want to find reasons not to resolve it, it’s very easy to do that. This has been something that’s been stuck for a very long time. There’s a lot of emotion – there’s a lot of issues that are hard to resolve. But again, you know, resolving, you know, making peace and making progress requires compromise and requires courage and requires leadership. And so, again, I think that we’ve spent two years trying to create a logical foundation, create a very strong point of view, cut through a lot of the things that have made this not achievable in the past. And I think that we’re trying to create an opportunity for the leadership of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to create a more peaceful, harmonious, and prosperous future for their people. And if they’re interested in that, then they’ll engage, if not, you know we’ll have done our job of putting this forward in a thoughtful way, but we’re also not allowing some of these old, tired ways of thinking about this to have not led to results get in the way.
Moderator: Our next question we received is from Bassam Abu Eid of Maan Media Network. He asks: In the event of a security incident, Israel’s reaction will destroy the economic plan. How can this be avoided and are there any contacts with the Palestinian Authority or Hamas?
Mr. Kushner: So again, on your second question, I’m not going to go into – one thing about me is people know that I talked to a lot of people, but you know one of the reasons why I have been able to I think get a lot of interesting points of view from people is that I don’t disclose who I talk to. So I’m not going to do that, but I will say that again, you know, the reason why we were able to put forward a detailed economic vision is because we were able to get great input from a lot of amazing people on all sides of this conflict who have been willing to engage with us. And the fact that it has not been disclosed who those people are has given them more confidence to continue to engage with us. We’ve done the same thing on the political plan. We’ve tried to get as many smart points of view as possible and then come up with the best ways to put forward solutions based on listening to all the different points of view from a lot of people who respect. The point we make about the conflict is exactly the point, which is that people don’t want to put good money after bad money and so that’s why again, if we get a peace agreement, then the money’s going to come in.
If we don’t get a peace agreement, then the money is not willing to come in. And so people have been doing this now, you know, for decades and quite frankly, it’s just, you know, at some point you have to get tired of doing the same thing over and getting no results. And I think they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, you know, and I just think that that’s not a way that we’re looking to approach it. So the answer is that you know we’re not looking to make investments unless there’s actually an environment where people believe that the investments will have the ability to have impact and both in the short, medium, and long term. Let’s take one more question. I think we’re at the end of the time.
Moderator: Our last question will be from Hiba al Qudsi of Asharq al Awsat.
Question: Good morning Mr. Kushner. I have two questions. Do you have a timeline for starting these kinds of projects in Palestine and Egypt and other countries. And the second question, there were a lot of criticism that the economic plan didn’t mention anything about the two-state solution. What’s your thoughts about or what’s your answer about this kind of criticism?
Mr. Kushner: So I appreciate you asking those questions because the fact that you’re still asking these questions means that people may not be getting what I’ve been saying. So let me be explicitly clear about what our intention was. The goal of the workshop was to lay out a economic plan for what could happen in the region in the event there is a political solution. There is no plan to make these investments before achieving a political solution. There is no plan to make these investments before achieving a political – before achieving political progress. And then with regard to the economic plan, it was meant to be devoid of the politics. So we tried to make it seem agnostic to whatever the political outcome could be. And so that’s what we attempted to do. People who are giving that criticism, I call that uninformed criticism because they haven’t listened to what we’ve been trying to do with this effort. And so if that’s the best criticism they can come up with, that means they’re just ignorant because they haven’t listened to what we were trying to do. So those are people who are looking to find things to criticize as opposed to people who are actually trying to be thoughtful, open minded, and constructive. So I hope that answers the question. But let’s do one more.
Moderator: All right. Our next question comes from Michel Ghandour of Al Hurra TV.
Question: What would be the next step after this conference? What are you planning to do in the near future?
Mr. Kushner: We’ll be announcing that soon. That’s a good question. I think that again we put a lot of work into making this go off. This was not an easy thing to do. Again, putting forward that economic plan 140 pages of detail that we were willing to put out to the public, have over a million people download, and be prepared to face, you know, detailed questions on it and then, you know, getting Bahrain to host a conference. We were able to have Israeli business delegation, Israeli journalists getting all these countries to come and to participate and to keep an open mind getting leading business leaders from all over the world to come. You know, trying to tell the story – again, as you saw on the last question, as much as we’ve tried to tell the story, some people still don’t hear it. That’s why we’re doing calls like this and that’s why we’ve tried to do a lot of media to be very explicit about what we’re trying to accomplish, how we’re approaching this, why it’s different. Hopefully people acknowledge that the way people have done this in the past has not been successful, so people will keep an open mind to what we’re trying to do. Hopefully, people will root for success because if we’re successful it means the whole region can be much better off.
And so we’ve been doing all that. We’ll be announcing probably next week what our next steps are going to be and then we’ll keep pushing forward. But what we want to do is take all of the feedback that we’ve been getting because we have done some new ideas and some good constructive feedback from people on the economic plan, we’ll incorporate it and then we’ll try to finalize it and then, you know, we’re talking with some of our partner countries about finding ways to create a right mechanism to potentially implement it in the event there is progress on the political front. And so, again, what we want to do is finalize it and make it more real because I do think that when we enter at some point there will be negotiations on the political issues. And when that happens, I think that it will get a lot more comfort to those negotiations for people to see that there is a excited, defined, locked and loaded economic plan for what could occur after a political breakthrough is reached. So that’s good. So I just want to thank all of you for taking the time to come on the call and for listening. I hope you’ll continue to write about this. I hope you’ll continue to keep an open mind.
And, again, the people who come with criticism of what we’ve done and what we’re trying to do, you should simply ask them what better ideas they have. And again, I’d ask them, you know, if they criticize the economic plan, say well what technically is wrong with it. And I think that you know again people realize this is a great economic plan. It’s very achievable. It’s ambitious, but again you need to have good Palestinian governance to be there and I do think that we’ve definitely started a discussion and I think that we should be asking the Palestinian leadership what’s their plan to help improve the lives of their people. And quite frankly, they’re very good at criticizing and saying things that are a little colorful that try to get good soundbites. But I have not seen in the two years that I’ve been doing this them put forward any constructive ideas and so I would challenge you to challenge them to see what ideas they have that are different and then ask the question which is why would you not engage if this means that you could help improve the lives of your people. And again, I think that that’s just an unfortunate situation.
But hopefully, with time though, they’ll come to their senses and do the right thing. Thank you very much.