The night before his 2017 inauguration, Donald Trump made what may have been one of his boldest, most ridiculous statements to date. Speaking at a black-tie event, he told the group assembled that despite decades of strife and years of failed attempts by people with deep expertise on the matter, he’d finally found the perfect guy to bring peace to the Middle East: his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump told Kushner. “All my life, I’ve been hearing that’s the toughest deal to make, but I have a feeling Jared is going to do a great job.” Given Kushner‘s complete and total lack of foreign-policy experience, the series of enormous red red flags from the jobs he has held, and the fact that his family’s financial ties to Israel make him more than a little conflicted, the notion that he would be the guy to bring enduring peace to the region has been met with a mixture of astonishment and the kind of doubled-over laughter that typically precedes the question, “You’re s--ting me, right?”
Unfortunately for progress’s sake, it seems Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who hasn‘t met with Kushner since the Boy Prince of New Jersey announced his father-in-law’s plan to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, feels the same way, if this transcript of Erekat’s account of their sit-down is any indication:
EREKAT: “The last conversation I had with Mr Kushner was in the White House—the 37th meeting. I tell him, ‘Jared, the president is supposed to sign the waiver, not to move the embassy.’
He said, ‘We’re not going to sign.’
I said, ‘What do you mean we’re not going to sign? The president promised us in the White House that he would not take any step that may pre-empt or pre-judge Jerusalem, not before negotiations.’
He said, ‘It’s our business, and we will conduct our policies according to our interests.’
I told him, ‘Look: if you do this, you will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’
He replied: ‘Don’t threaten me.’
I said, ‘Read my lips: you will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’
He said, ‘You don’t know the changes that are happening around you in the Arab world.’
I told him, ‘The best thing for me is to be a student—so teach me.’
‘DON’T BE SARCASTIC,’ he shouted.
I said, ‘I’m not being sarcastic. What do you mean by changes? Do you think Arab countries will open embassies in Tel Aviv and accept Jerusalem, with the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as Israel’s capital? To them Jerusalem is a red line—all of them! Saudis, Qataris, Egyptians, Jordanians, Bahrainis. So what are you talking about?’
He said, ‘This is our business—our policies.’
I said, ‘If you do this, you will bring Israelis and Palestinians to [the] brink of disaster.’
Theodore Roosevelt once said the White House is an office of international morality. And he’s right. But this White House needs giant statesmen, not real-estate agents.”
Of course, within the White House, the Trump-Kushner clan seemingly still believes its real-estate agent is the man for the job. Last week, while dodging a question about his close pal Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordering the murder of a U.S. resident, Kushner told Sean Hannity that he’ll be releasing his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan “in the next couple of months,” putting it out there ahead of time that “not every side is going to love” it. “There’s enough in it, and enough reasons why people should take it and move forward,” Kushner said. “And this plan will keep the Israeli people safe and give them a good future, but also give a real opportunity and hope for the Palestinian people so that they can live much better lives.”
As it stands, Kushner has managed to make at least one Middle Eastern nation happy. On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s official press agency released a statement, calling the Trump administration’s stance on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder—the one where they’ve declined to pin the blame on the crown prince, despite compelling evidence that he in fact ordered the hit—“prudent,” noting that it is “appreciate[d]” by the kingdom.
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