Khaled Elgindy on Bernie, Kushner & ‘Repackaging the Status Quo’

Published May 16th, 2019 - 12:45 GMT
Khaled Elgindy is a nonresident fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings
Khaled Elgindy is a nonresident fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings

"There is a hopelessness. There is a sense of frustration. There is a sense of major lack in alternatives... All of these things lead to frustration. The people are frustrated with their authoritarian governments, but they just do not see any alternative on the horizon."

With America gradually unveiling its most recent and drastic peace plan for the Middle East, U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, remains on the frontline as he seemingly helps with the the pulling of all the strings.

To gain further insight on the situation, DC Insider spoke with Khaled Elgindy, author of "Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, From Balfour to Trump" on the upcoming announcement.



"In regards to the Kushner plan, details don't really matter because we know the broad outline: Jerusalem is off the table, refugees are off the table, and Palestinian statehood is off the table," Elgindy noted. "With the three issues [that Palestinians care most about] off the the table, all that's left is one question: How much money will the Gulf states expect to fork over for this Palestinian entity?"

"In regards to the Kushner plan, details don't really matter because we know the broad outline: Jerusalem is off the table, refugees are off the table, and Palestinian statehood is off the table," Elgindy noted.

Considering all that is currently unfolding within the MENA region - especially among the Gulf states - financially assisting the PA may seem like a low priority. According to Elgindy, however, countries in the Gulf could continue to fiscally support the PA, as they've done in the past.

"The Palestinians receive financial assistance from Kuwait, UAE, KSA, Qatar and other Gulf states... That has been a consistent source of support from a financial standpoint. I would imagine that [the PA] will become even more reliant on that... Given U.S. aid cuts and European donor fatigue, the Arab states are now their major source of support economically."

Given U.S. aid cuts and European donor fatigue, the Arab states are now their major source of support economically.

But how much can the other Arab states really do, considering all the pressure that they're currently under?

"The ordinary Arabs, to different degrees [depending on the country and their circumstances,] are all distracted... They have other issues to deal with, besides the Palestinians, which are all competing for their attention," Elgindy responded.

In regards to the PA's longest ally, Trump Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt made it quite clear that Jordan would not be taking any part in a confederation between Israel and the PA. This statement, which was posted on the politician's Twitter account on April 24, quickly led many to believe that Jordan would no longer be aiding the Palestinians.

"It's not as bad as people think," Elgindy highlighted. "There are a lot of rumors floating around concerning what would be in the plan, and that was just one of them...  Kushner is taking a former U.S. policy, in which all dealings with the West Bank were considered to be Jordan's issue, off the table."

Unfortunately, another aspect that won't be considered is a "sovereign independent state that controls its own borders and airspace, one that doesn't just have limited autonomy under the umbrella of Israeli rule," Elgindy explained, adding that all of "this would just be a repackaging of the status quo."
 

Unfortunately, another aspect that won't be considered is a "sovereign independent state that controls its own borders and airspace, one that doesn't just have limited autonomy under the umbrella of Israeli rule," Elgindy explained, adding that all of "this would just be a repackaging of the status quo."

In spite of the PA's lack of assistance, Elgindy pointed out one country that has continued to show their allegiance to the PA through out the years, most notably during Former President of Egypt Anwar Sadat's time in power.

"Egypt has been playing a role and not just between Israelis and Palestinians, but also as a mediator between the various Palestinian factions," Elgindy stated. "Egypt is the primary third-party involved in intra-Palestinian dialogue and so Egypt can certainly play an important role in sending some support to the Palestinian leadership; giving them a political/diplomatic boost, providing the Palestinian issue with some strategic depth, etc."

Many of the factors that are being used in formulating this new 'deal of the century' and are attributed to the current US administration are also connected to previous administrations. From Elgindy's perspective, former U.S. President Barack Obama had plenty to do with the disintegration of the Palestinians due to the fact that he was much more of a talker than a doer.

"By the time that Obama came, not only was there no peace... There wasn't even a process nor was there a mechanism to contain the violence. In response, Obama did the absolute minimum in terms of trying to preserve the semblance of a peace process by harboring negotiations; talking about things but not actively doing anything."
 

Obama did the absolute minimum in terms of trying to preserve the semblance of a peace process by harboring negotiations; talking about things but not actively doing anything

Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian issue extends much further back, even though the U.S. administration seems to be repeating history vicariously through its reminscence of the previous Bush administration.

"There are similarities in the sense that the Bush administration also suffered from a real lack of coherence in terms of policy... There were different factions within the Bush administration that were pulling the policy in different directions, and not just on Israel/Palestine, but also on Iraq and the war on terrorism in general. So, what we're seeing is a lot of contradictions and incoherence at different moments and there's some of that in the Trump administration, also."

Within a matter of weeks, the latest 'peace plan' will be announced and the entire MENA region will definitely be in for a rude awakening. Fortunately, as grim as the future may appear to be, there still may be a light at the end of this dark tunnel in the form of a potential U.S. president.
 

Bernie Sanders is the one Democratic candidate with the most clear and well-articulated views on the issue of Israel and Palestine. Other candidates have weighed in, more or less, on a two-state solution and so forth, but haven't really distinguished themselves the way that he has

"Bernie Sanders is the one Democratic candidate with the most clear and well-articulated views on the issue of Israel and Palestine. Other candidates have weighed in, more or less, on a two-state solution and so forth, but haven't really distinguished themselves the way that he has.

If Sanders were to be elected, it's possible that we could see a very different approach from what we saw under Obama... He could possibly play the role that Obama didn't," Elgindy concluded.

Khaled Elgindy is a nonresident fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and a founding board member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association.


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