Jared Kushner says Gaza’s ‘waterfront property could be very valuable’

Donald Trump’s son-in-law also says Israel should bulldoze an area of the Negev desert and move Palestinians there

Jared Kushner has praised the “very valuable” potential of Gaza’s “waterfront property” and suggested Israel should remove civilians while it “cleans up” the strip.

The former property dealer, married to Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, made the comments in an interview at Harvard University on 15 February. The interview was posted on the YouTube channel of the Middle East Initiative, a program of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, earlier this month.

Kushner was a senior foreign policy adviser under Trump’s presidency and was tasked with preparing a peace plan for the Middle East. Critics of the plan, which involved Israel striking normalisation deals with Gulf states, said it bypassed questions about the future for Palestinians.

His remarks at Harvard gave a hint of the kind of Middle East policy that could be pursued in the event that Trump returns to the White House, including a search for a normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“Gaza’s waterfront property could be very valuable … if people would focus on building up livelihoods,” Kushner told his interviewer, the faculty chair of the Middle East Initiative, Prof Tarek Masoud. Kushner also lamented “all the money” that had gone into the territory’s tunnel network and munitions instead of education and innovation.

“It’s a little bit of an unfortunate situation there, but from Israel’s perspective I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up,” Kushner said. “But I don’t think that Israel has stated that they don’t want the people to move back there afterwards.”

Masoud replied that there was “a lot to talk about there”.

Kushner also said he thinks Israel should move civilians from Gaza to the Negev desert in southern Israel.

He said that if he were in charge of Israel his number one priority would be getting civilians out of the southern city of Rafah, and that “with diplomacy” it could be possible to get them into Egypt.

“But in addition to that, I would just bulldoze something in the Negev, I would try to move people in there,” he said. “I think that’s a better option, so you can go in and finish the job.”

He reiterated the point a little later, saying: “I do think right now opening up the Negev, creating a secure area there, moving the civilians out, and then going in and finishing the job would be the right move.”

The suggestion drew a startled response from Masoud. “Is that something that they’re talking about in Israel?” Masoud asked. “I mean, that’s the first I’ve really heard of somebody, aside from President Sisi [Egypt’s leader], suggesting that Gazans trying to flee the fighting could take refuge in the Negev. Are people in Israel seriously talking about that possibility?”

“I don’t know,” Kushner replied, shrugging his shoulders.

“That would be something you’d try to work on?” Masoud asked.

“I’m sitting in Miami Beach right now,” Kushner said. “And I’m looking at the situation and I’m thinking: what would I do if I was there?”

Israel should ‘finish the job’ by moving Palestinians to Negev, says Kushner – video

Asked by Masoud about fears on the part of Arabs in the region that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would not allow Palestinians who flee Gaza to return, Kushner paused and then said: “Maybe.”

He went on to say: “I am not sure there is much left of Gaza at this point. If you think about even the construct, Gaza was not really a historical precedent [sic]. It was the result of a war. You had tribes in different places and then Gaza became a thing. Egypt used to run it and then over time different governments came in.”

Responding to a question about whether the Palestinians should have their own state, Kushner described the proposal as “a super bad idea” that “would essentially be rewarding an act of terror”.

This article was amended on 20 March 2024. An earlier version said that Jared Kushner made the comments about Gaza’s “waterfront property” in an interview at Harvard University on 8 March. In fact, the interview took place on 15 February and the video was posted online on 8 March.

Original article

Watch video interview

Photo: Jared Kushner speaks at a Knesset event in Jerusalem celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, 11 October 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

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