Jared Kushner may feel special counsel Robert S. Mueller III breathing down his neck, but meanwhile, he continues to demonstrate that he is entirely in over his head and dangerously ignorant on policy matters.
The latest demonstration came at the Saban Forum in Washington. Kushner appears not to have learned from years of failure in the “peace process,” insisting that this president will find the magic formula for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. “We do think it’s achievable,” he said.
That would have been bad enough. However, he went a step further and revived an old, discredited myth, generally referred to as “linkage.” He said, “If we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole, you have to solve this issue.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
5 reasons why Jared Kushner has no idea what he is saying about the Middle East:
1. “The notion that Israeli-Palestinian peace is the precondition for progress in other parts of the Mideast has been repeatedly falsified. This is the same delusion that Republicans once criticized the Obama administration for espousing. But Kushner may be unaware of this given how little he knows about the region in which he now meddles at the president’s behest,” says foreign policy guru Max Boot.
2. Kushner surely is not the only ignoramus in the White House, but he’s the most visible and is seen as speaking directly for Trump. Any new secretary of state should demand Kushner hush up and/or report directly to him at all. He’s a one-man wrecking crew, not only when it comes to rotten judgment in the Russia scandal.
3. Kushner’s comment is particularly idiotic given how closely Israel is cooperating currently with its Arab neighbours while the Palestinian crisis goes unresolved. Israel’s close cooperation with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states is at a high point as they collectively battle the threat of Iranian aggression.
4. Eric Edelman, the former ambassador to Turkey, tells me, “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict deserves to be settled – on its own terms.” He continues, “For years the conventional wisdom was that the key to resolving the conflicts of and providing security in the Middle East was an Arab-Israeli peace deal. It was never true.” However, “to put it back at the centre of things now, when the strategic circumstances and conflicts in the region are in so much turmoil and so clearly disconnected from anything to do with the occupied territories, is really surprising and also a little disheartening,” he observes.
5. That’s not to say that in the hands of skilled diplomats something might be accomplished without roiling the Middle East. “If it is done in a way that says we are acknowledging a reality that for Israel, Jerusalem is and will always be its capital, that no one questions whether West Jerusalem is and will always be part of Israel and that we are not pre-judging the outcome of the final status of Jerusalem which can only be determined by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, then it is manageable,” says former Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross.
“The key point is are we continuing to accept that the final status of Jerusalem can only be resolved through negotiations or are we pre-empting that?” He adds, “The former can work, the latter cannot and would put Arab leaders on the defensive, requiring them to prove their opposition to us and our plans.” It’s hard to imagine that the Trump crew has the finesse to pull this off.
There’s a reason that every U.S. president who ran on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital or on moving the embassy backed down in office. Unless and until there is a comprehensive peace deal, the issue remains technically “open.” But to Israel’s advantage, Jerusalem also remains in Israel’s hands. Sometimes the status quo is the best solution – especially when Israel has succeeded in making unprecedented inroads with its Sunni Arab neighbors.