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Analysts Question Heavy Pressure on Arabs to Accept US Peace Plan
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman listens as Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner delivers a speech during the opening of the US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

Analysts Question Heavy Pressure on Arabs to Accept US Peace Plan

White House adviser Kushner is accused of exploiting American influence to serve Israel’s interests in the region

The senior adviser and son-in-law to US President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, has been accused of taking advantage of the poor economic and political situations of Arab states to pressure them into accepting the controversial American peace plan for the Middle East. The plan was rejected unanimously by the 22-states of the Arab League only three days after its announcement on January 28.

Oraib al-Rintawi, a Jordanian analyst and founder and director of the Amman-based Al Quds Center for Political Studies, told The Media Line that Jordan had rejected the deal, but had not expressed its rejection in any official document, over fears that doing so might trigger the US to reduce its foreign aid to Amman.

“The Jordanian rejection didn’t appear in any official document. Rather, [we saw] an affirmation of the Jordanian vision of the solution, which is represented by the two-state model. This American administration has imposed sanctions [on states] more than any other administration; it imposes them on a daily basis.” Rintawi said.

He explained that the US administration is using strong-arm tactics in an attempt to force Arab states to accept an American plan that pleases none of them, including American allies in the area: “It’s the only tool available now to Kushner to force the unjust and biased plan. For instance, the US gave Sudan the option to end the sanctions imposed on it if the latter would normalize relations with Israel, which is called blackmail. Moreover, the Gulf states were pressured through the Iranian ‘scarecrow.’”

Rintawi added that the US was no longer using the sanctions to counter-terror but as a tool to deal with its political and economic competitors. “The first victim of this administration is the Palestinian people. It closed the PLO office in the US, cut its aid money except for security and targeted UNRWA. This is called the economic war approach.”

Jordan is struggling economically due to high unemployment, inflation, poor agricultural technologies, increasing population and various external factors, chief among them the influx of refugees. The rate of economic growth in Amman has slowed dramatically since 2009; in 2019, it stood at around 2.2%, significantly lower than the government’s goal of 5%.

Moeen al-Taher, a Palestinian-Jordanian political analyst and writer for the Institute for Palestine Studies in Amman, told The Media Line that the American administration studies the Arab states’ weaknesses in order to use the gaps to pressure them. American political and economic behavior, he said, reflected that.

“For example, the US is pressuring Morocco to accept Israel; in return, the Americans would recognize Western Sahara as Moroccan territory,” Taher said.

In 1975, Spain abandoned its colonies in North Africa. Immediately afterward, Morocco stepped in and claimed sovereignty over the Western Sahara, which is located on its southern border. However, the Polisario, a military organization that was first created to fight Spain, opposed Morocco’s claim and established the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976, which has not been recognized internationally until now.

Marwan Iskandar, a Beirut-based financial expert and chief economic commentator at the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, told The Media Line that Kushner barely visited Lebanon, as relations between the countries are limited, but because Jordan has close relations with the US in addition to the aid money it receives annually from Washington, it was under American pressure from the very beginning.

“Kushner isn’t versed in economics and what he has provided [in Trump’s plan] doesn’t even represent an economic offer. Let’s not forget that his father had to pay millions of dollars to Harvard to accept his enrolment,” Iskandar elaborated. “He is trying to force his own opinion by employing America’s power to coercively demand the deal.”

The plan was released on January 28 during a press conference at the White House that was attended by, among others, the ambassadors of three Arab Gulf states: the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain.

Mohammed Dhia Hammami, a Tunisian writer and research consultant for various organizations who is based in Tunisia and the US, told The Media Line that according to several sources, Kushner pressured a number of Tunisian officials – though not necessary President Kais Saied. According to his sources, the US threatened to withdraw military cooperation if they didn’t change their position regarding Trump’s “deal of the century.”

Hammami said that trade relations between Tunisia and the US and US aid money to Tunis were very limited. (In 2019, total trade between the countries was valued at $931 million, and the US Congress appropriated about $191 million for assistance to Tunisia.) The military cooperation, however, is very advanced and developed, “which is the only thing left to Kushner to pressure Tunis with. The US considers Tunisia’s decision to reject the plan to be radical, but it won’t change, as the government would never approve anything against public opinion in the country.”

He added that Tunisian foreign policy may end up looking for an alternative to American cooperation rather than change its position on the deal.

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