It must be really exciting for Jared Kushner a young, New York, Jewish, real estate deal maker to find himself in the shoes of being a Middle East peacemaker. This is a role where everyone from Henry Kissinger—a Harvard professor who had left Harvard before Kushner was born let alone arrived at Harvard—to James Baker, George Schultz, George Mitchell, Madeline Albright and numerous other public negotiators, statesmen, and diplomats had traveled with only limited success. This is the job which Dennis Ross and his team of Middle East specialists spent over 25 years struggling to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to find a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Now Kushner is entrusted with this portfolio by a President who cares more about making a deal than truly understanding the underlying history of the conflict, the parties’ genuine needs as well as their fears for the future of their peoples.
Suggesting that he is close to announcing a proposed deal to make peace, Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have been travelling around the region for over a week. Based on the interview that Kushner gave to the Palestinian paper Al Quds this past weekend as well as signals and leaks that have begun to appear, some aspects of the forthcoming Trump proposal are developing. There already are four items that raise serious doubts as to how this diplomatic novice proposes to make any movement towards peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.
First, Kushner and the entire Trump Administration have not spoken—at least in public—with anyone from the Palestinians leadership since the U.S. announced its decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Assuming this is correct, it would appear that Kushner and Netanyahu will be negotiating with themselves over the future of the Palestinians people. Without any engagement from the Palestinians, all proposals are stillborn.
Second, many analysts have observed that the President has brought the Saudis and the Gulf States into a critical position to support the Trump initiative. In exchange it appears that Israel will become their ally—at least for now—in their standoff with Iran. The Sunni coalition including Egypt and Jordan also will effectively become deal brokers on behalf of the Palestinians as well as their bankrollers. Meanwhile, the U.S. will continue to hardline Iran.
Third, there are reportedly some suggestions that Hamas has been seeking to enter to the conversation for peace as the spokespersons for the Palestinians, absent the Palestinian Authority. It is unclear how far Israel would be willing to even consider Hamas as an interlocutor given its opposition to Israel’s very existence and its leadership role in the on-going Gaza confrontation. For Abbas as well, such a move would be unacceptable and would fold any negotiations before they even began.
Finally, other than lip service, Kushner does not suggest a U.S. role in addressing the huge, on-going humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Kushner may believe that he is reaching out to the Palestinian people over the heads of any of their bankrupt leaders. Unfortunately, when you only have four hours of electricity a day you are not sitting in front of television set watching CNN; potable water, food, and medicine are much higher on your priority list. Kushner ought to understand that Gazans also have plenty of time to demonstrate when they have no jobs.
It is easy to understand how Jared Kushner was absolutely excited by the prospects of trying to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. With his family history, his religious background, and his personal commitment, it is no wonder that he probably wished for nothing more than to bring about peace in Israel. Given his limited resume, it seems clear that all Kushner really has is as much chutzpah as his father-in-law.