Jared Kushner’s visit to Jerusalem to promote his troubled Middle East peace plan appeared to abruptly lose its remaining energy after an overnight crisis in Israeli politics plunged the country into a months-long election campaign.
With no guarantees Benjamin Netanyahu’s Trump-friendly government will stay in power past the summer, any progress made with Kushner – Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser – is at risk of being revoked by the next Israeli administration.
One month after Israelis voted in a national poll, Netanyahu failed to form a government by a midnight deadline on Wednesday and chose to push parliament to disband rather than risk political foe Benny Gantz snatching the premiership from his grasp.
New elections are set for 17 September, and the next government may not take power until October, possibly later.
As it did earlier this year for April’s polls, Washington will likely delay releasing details of its plan until the campaign is over. By that point Donald Trump will be gearing up for his own 2020 campaign, and will then be the one unable to make long-term guarantees on behalf of his country.
The Palestinian leadership has already rejected Washington’s undisclosed plan, citing Trump’s pro-Israel bias, and more delays for what the US president refers to as the “deal of the century” could push it into obscurity.
“Now it is the deal of the next century,” a senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, joked after the vote in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel, said: “The Trump peace plan is on ice – maybe permanently.”
Kushner and the US’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, hours before Israel’s parliament voted to disband. Greenblatt visited the Western Wall that evening, and tweeted: “Lots to pray for!!”
The pair were due to meet with Netanyahu on Thursday.
It was not clear if Kushner would press ahead with an economic conference in Bahrain next month, the first part of the plan that Washington said would focus on the potential financial incentives of a peace deal.
The idea is to persuade Arab Gulf countries to commit to billions in investment for the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The conference will not discuss thorny political issues such as Palestinian statehood.
So far, one Palestinian businessman has confirmed his attendance.
Kushner and Greenblatt began their regional tour in Morocco and were in Jordan on Wednesday.
Morocco did not publicly commit to attending the Bahrain conference. Jordan’s King Abdullah II released a statement that suggested he was at odds with the US delegation.
He insisted on the “need to intensify efforts to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace based on the two-state solution that would guarantee the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Trump has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Kushner’s as-yet-unreleased plan is not expected to include Palestinian statehood but focuses on enticing Palestinian with investments, diplomats have said. While he has not rejected a two-state solution, the mainstay of previous rounds of negotiations, Kushner has criticised previous efforts along those lines.
With most of Jordan’s people of Palestinian descent, it will be hard for the king to agree to back a deal that does not include a Palestinian state.
The last round of US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.