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The Kushner Peace Plan Spills Over with Good Intentions

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Jared Kushner (right) on 8/4/2017 © Michael Candelori / Shutterstock

February 28, 2019 10:52 EDT

Jared Kushner generously offers the Palestinians opportunity and hope, but apparently little else. The Daily Devil’s Dictionary explains.

Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has returned to the Middle East, presumably to play out the long-promised but still unperformed final act of his absurdist drama, “Waiting for Godot in the Holy Land.” Kushner prefers to call it a peace plan and Trump “the deal of the century.” Kushner affirms that, when it is finally revealed to the world (no specific date announced), it will make all parties happy. In an interview in 2018, he explained why: “[I]f there is peace, Israel’s prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Spill over:

To produce a form of superfluous gains, considered by the owners as expendable waste that may be useful for those who, by virtue of standing below, happen to receive it by virtue of Newton’s law of gravity. Similar to “trickle down,” but representing a not quite as rational, controlled and disciplined process. Synonym: leave the crumbs on the floor. 

Contextual note

As the world waits with bated breath not for the plan itself, but just to have an idea of what the blockbuster “deal” contains, Kushner wants us to know that everyone will benefit, even if, in his own words, it’s a deal “not every side is going to love.” In other words, much as President Trump would philosophize in his science of the “art of the deal,” instead of “win-win,” it’s “win-lose but as a takeaway, the consolation that given who you are, there was no hope of getting a better deal, whatever happened.”

As Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, points out, a plan designed by three Zionists “masquerading as peacemakers,” whatever the terms it ends up proposing, is unlikely to satisfy the population most concerned: the Palestinians. Kushner claims that “this plan will keep the Israeli people safe, give them a good future, but also give a real opportunity and hope for the Palestinian people, so that they can live much better lives.”

This gives us an idea of the logic of the tradeoff that Kushner and Trump envisage. Israel gets safety — presumably the guarantee that the nation will always be a “Jewish state,” rather than a multicultural democracy in which the Jews might at some point be overruled by non-Jews — and a “good future,” which appears to mean assured economic prosperity, thanks perhaps to American support and technology transfer as well as Saudi money for investment.

The Palestinians would be only too delighted to go away from the deal with “opportunity” and “hope.” That means they have the right to compete (opportunity) with Israel or even emulate their actions. But once having demonstrated their inability to perform at the same level, thanks to the opportunity to do so, they can hope that the next time they try, they may succeed.

This is the traditional language to justify inequality that still reigns among conservative minds in the US. It defines the logic behind the theory of trickle-down economics. All men are created not equal, but with equal opportunity. Of course in reality those who have the means to exploit opportunity will be assured of having a “good future.” Those who don’t have the means will most likely fail. But they can’t complain, because even after failure (and the deprivation of means) they will still have both the “opportunity” to benefit from what trickles down and the “hope” of receiving some of what spills over from the initiatives of the successful.

Coincidentally, this week Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, in a verbal tussle with Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, affirmed her belief in a similar principle of opportunity for the lower classes in the US. Ivanka said: “So, I think that this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want. They want the ability to live in a country where’s there’s the potential for upward mobility.” In other words, give people nothing more than opportunity, even if they don’t have enough to live on, and they will be motivated to become “upwardly mobile.”

Historical note

To defend his plan, Kushner offered his reading of history: “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been used for many years to incite and radicalize, when hatred of Israel united all the countries in the region. Today that has changed because of Iran, which is the greatest threat to the entire region and unites all of them.”

Reading between the lines, we need to make sense of what he means by “that has changed because of Iran.” Does he really believe that Turkey, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait see Iran as the “greatest threat to the entire region”? That President Trump has appealed to the paranoia of Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia and the automatic complicity of Egypt’s authoritarian regime is undeniable. The nations of the region are increasingly worried about Saudi Arabia, not Iran. Israel and Saudi, for different reasons, have focused on Iran, but the fiasco in Yemen, to say nothing of the Jamal Khashoggi assassination and the continuing blockade of Qatar, has seriously dimmed the attraction of aligning with Saudi Arabia. As for aligning with Israel, even the Saudi people are uncomfortable with the implications of that.

Kushner claims that “hatred of Israel united all the countries in the region,” which sounds suspiciously like an appeal to the currently popular theme of accusing anyone who doesn’t support Israeli policies or American-Israeli alignment of anti-Semitism. What did for decades unite both governments and populations in the Middle East in their opposition to Israeli expansion was not hatred of Israel, but hatred of expansion.

Marwan Bishara is hopeful that Trump and Kushner’s failure to do a deal will become a learning experience. That is precisely what hope is for.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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