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Kushner to invite Arab leaders to Camp David summit on Mideast tour: Report

Israeli media says Trump's son-in-law will visit Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in tour beginning Thursday
White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (L) is set to lead a US delegation to the Middle East to promote a controversial peace plan for the Palestinians (AFP)

Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to embark on a new Middle East tour in a bid to persuade regional leaders to attend a peace summit at the US President's Camp David residence, Israeli media reported on Wednesday. 

Kushner, a White House senior advisor who last month presented economic details of Trump's so-called "deal of the century" peace plan at a conference in Bahrain, is expected to begin the tour by visiting Jerusalem on Thursday, according to the Israeli Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

Kushner is also set to visit Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates this week to invite Arab leaders to Camp David later this year, the paper said.

The Maryland country retreat was the venue for peace talks between Egypt and Israel hosted by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1978, which resulted in a handshake between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin. The talks led to Egypt becoming the first Arab state to recognise Israel.

According to an unnamed Washington source who spoke to the paper, the summit will be held before the Israeli elections scheduled for 17 September.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, will not attend the conference because his presence would "make it difficult for Kushner to convince Arab leaders to attend it", the paper said.

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In December, Middle East Eye reported that a Camp David-style handshake between Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was among ideas suggested by a Saudi task force established in the kingdom to propose measures to restore its reputation in Washington following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But Barak Ravid, an Israeli journalist at Channel 13 News, said a White House official had denied that a peace summit was currently being planned. Kushner would report back to Trump and other senior officials to discuss the next steps, Ravid said on Twitter. 

Kushner’s visit to Israel follows a rare decision on Tuesday by Israeli ministers to approve the building of 700 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank’s area C. The decision could be used by Kushner to indicate that Israel is making efforts to support the peace plan.  

Details of the tour have not yet been announced by the White House.

But a Trump administration official had said earlier in July that Kushner would lead a US delegation on a Middle East tour to finalise details of his proposed $50bn economic development plan which is aimed at Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as at Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

“We would like to finalise the plan’s economic portion, including to discuss the potential placement of the investments,” a senior official told the Times of Israel, referring to the investment package for the Palestinians and the wider region proposed by the plan.

Palestinian leaders and officials boycotted the June conference in Manama where Kushner sought to entice donors into supporting the economic plan, deriding it as an "economy first" approach that is doomed to fail.

Under the plan, donor nations and investors would contribute about $50bn over 10 years, with $28bn going to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip - as well as $7.5bn to Jordan, $9bn to Egypt and $6bn for Lebanon.

"The Palestinian cause is political and any solution must be political first, and after that, we can look into the economic side," Dr Mohammed Mustafa, head of the Palestinian Investment Fund and economic advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, told MEE in June.

"By offering this amount of money without a clear, fair and acceptable political plan, it's clear the Americans are trying to replace a political solution with an economic solution, and no Palestinian can accept that."