For foreign policy watchers, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Speech was missing some crucial talking points, among them: His long-promised Middle East peace plan.
There was some expectation that he might unveil it during the U.N. General Assembly in September. That didn’t happen. Nor did the plan materialize in the four month timeline he promised that same month. But according to a piece published by Politico on Friday, the wait is somewhat over: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the man tasked with drafting a plan, will soon unveil the plan’s “the economic portion.”
A brief reminder of the actual conflicts in the region include Syria’s civil war, Yemen’s civil war (with the intervention of a U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian coalition), tensions between Israel and Palestine, and the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
Kushner, we’re told, will head at the end of February to the Gulf Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
He will not go to Israel, nor the Palestinian territories. Two more stops might be added to the itinerary (perhaps Jordan and Kuwait), but the trip includes Yemen, Iraq, or Syria, Kushner will likely not need to pack his flak jacket on this trip.
So, what can we expect from all of this?
If you were unaware of an economic war going on in the Gulf Arab countries, that’s because there isn’t one. Saudi Arabia maintains its blockade at its border with Qatar, so perhaps Kushner will try to address that. It remains to be seen if he will he address the humanitarian disaster created by the Saudi coalition intervention in Yemen, or address the Trump administration’s decision to cut reconstruction aid to Syria.
Kushner, who is senior advisor to his father-in-law, might try to get these countries to donate more to aid for Palestinian refugees, which would be good given that the U.S. has cut its funding to the U.N. program focused on their needs.
According to Politico, he will try to get wealthy Gulf Arab countries to provide jobs for Palestinians, which is a tall order. This is because getting travel documents is difficult for Palestinians — they are technically stateless, and as refugees, can’t always travel (even if Israeli authorities allow it).
Some of the largest employers in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates, are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, with local laws (or, sometimes, lack thereof) making it tough for employers to hire and integrate Palestinians into the workforce.
Plus, while the Gulf Arab world is generally one of wealth, the riches aren’t uniform: In Saudi Arabia, the largest of those states, unemployment is at nearly 13 percent.
Kushner’s entourage will include the hawkish Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, so expect more tough talk on Iran, and perhaps some pressure on Qatar to cut ties with Iran (which were only strengthened after Saudi imposed the blockade with the support of the U.A.E. and Bahrain).
It’s worth noting that this trip is scheduled to take place during the last week of February, almost immediately after Kushner attends an anti-Iran summit in Poland.