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Kushner gives a presentation on immigration at a Cabinet meeting. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Jared Kushner briefed senators behind closed doors today on the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan, White House officials tell me.

Where things stand: Palestinian leaders swiftly rejected the plan last month, as expected, but Kushner told a bipartisan group from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the international reaction was otherwise encouraging. His briefing was part of an effort to build support for the plan in Washington and overseas.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Kushner pointed to two factors making a solution harder to reach: increased dependence of Palestinian leaders on foreign aid and increasing expansion by Israeli leaders of settlements in the West Bank.

“Kushner’s message was that every time negotiations failed, the Palestinians got more money and Israel was able to keep expanding the settlements, but the peace process became a false notion and didn’t solve anything. Both parties' leaderships just kept getting what they want without improving the lives of the people."
— Senior White House official

The presentation was the same one Kushner used two weeks ago at a closed meeting of the UN Security Council. His main argument is that the status quo is broken and something else has to be tried.

  • Kushner argued in his presentation that the lingering Israeli-Palestinian conflict is used as a pretext for more radicalization in the Middle East.
  • He told senators that the White House wanted to use the plan not only to try to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also to bring Israel and the Arab and Muslim worlds closer together.
  • Kushner also presented the senators with a list of reforms he said the Palestinians must undertake to achieve statehood and reduce the risk of creating a failed state in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinians consider the plan a nonstarter, but Kushner emphasized that there were indications it could still move forward. His case:

  • The two main political leaders in Israel support the plan and it didn’t become a controversial issue in the Israeli elections.
  • There were several positive statements about the plan from Arab countries.
  • The EU was not united in opposition to the plan.
  • The Palestinians push against the plan stalled at the UN.

A White House official slammed the Palestinian response to the plan, telling me: "They don't have a real detailed idea of what they want."

"It has exposed the Palestinian leadership who is defending the status quo. We are moving the debate to discussing the technical challenges and the details as opposed to romanticizing about things that people know will never happen."

The flipside: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has denounced the plan as "an Israeli-American" effort to "put an end to the question of Palestine."

View Kushner's presentation:

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Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

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Netanyahu plea talks enter crunch time

Netanyahu (right) meets with his lawyer ahead of a court hearing last February. Photo: Reuven Casto/Pool/AFP via Getty

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister, is negotiating a possible plea deal over the corruption charges against him, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit appears to be toughening his terms.

Why it matters: Mandelblit leaves office on Jan. 31. Negotiations could continue beyond that point, but the next attorney general may be less interested in quickly reaching a deal.