If Jared Kushner is the only person who can deliver Middle East peace — as his father-in-law Donald Trump said — he comes off as a reluctant savior.
In a speech delivered Monday to a group of congressional interns and leaked to the media, Kushner expounded on the Trump administration’s efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. What emerged was an outlook that at once was resolutely pro-Israel and skeptical of the chances of success.
“So what do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” Kushner said in his seven-minute answer to an intern’s question in a recording obtained by Wired magazine. “And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on.”
In the speech, Kushner sounds unenthused to be handling the peace process. He opens his answer by saying “this is one of the ones I was asked to take on,” and becomes more pessimistic from there, criticizing Israeli and Palestinian leaders for being mired in history and unable to let go of minor provocations.
“You know everyone finds an issue, that ‘you have to understand what they did then,’ and ‘you have to understand that they did this,’” Kushner said. “But how does that help us get peace? Let’s not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.”
He also made some questionable claims. Kushner said that “not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last 40 or 50 years we’ve been doing this,” apparently dismissing Israeli peace pacts with Egypt and Jordan, the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Then he said “the variables haven’t been changed much” — something that both Israeli and Palestinian officials would fiercely dispute. Israelis charge that their withdrawals from territory have been met only with terror and incitement, while the Palestinians claim growing Israeli settlements are making a Palestinian state near impossible.
Aaron David Miller, who worked on the peace process in Republican and Democratic administrations, said he appreciated Kushner’s skepticism while adding that his dismissal of history is misguided.
In describing recent events, Kushner displayed a pro-Israel stance — unsurprising given that he was raised in pro-Israel Jewish day schools and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once slept in his childhood bed.
Kushner did not speak of the two-state solution in his answer. He defended Israel’s decision to erect metal detectors as “not an irrational thing to do,” although Palestinians decried the move and said the security measures made them feel like suspects at their own holy site. He criticized a Palestinian imam for forbidding worshippers from passing through the metal detectors.
And in recounting fatalities during the weekend of violence that followed the detectors’ placement, Kushner listed only the Israelis — including three members of an Israeli family stabbed to death in their home by a Palestinian terrorist — and did not mention the Palestinians.