After just six months, Jared Kushner has apparently learned all he needs to know about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His conclusion? “Not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last 40 or 50 years we've been doing this.”
You don’t say.
In a leaked interview published by Wired on Monday, Kushner — President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been tasked with brokering a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, among other high-profile assignments — provided the deepest insight we’ve gotten to date about how he is approaching the herculean job of negotiating one of the world’s thorniest conflicts.
The picture that emerged is not very promising.
Speaking to a group of congressional interns in what was supposed to be an off-the-record meeting, Kushner said that after researching the conflict’s history and speaking with “a lot of people,” he’d learned that “this is a very emotionally charged situation.”
He then proceeded to completely dismiss everything he’d apparently learned over the past few months about the conflict’s nuances and historical context.
“Everyone finds an issue, that ‘You have to understand what they did then' and 'You have to understand that they did this,’” said Kushner. “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. Let’s focus on, How do you come up with a conclusion to the situation?”
Longtime Middle East watchers immediately blasted Kushner’s remarkable blend of naiveté and overconfidence. Dan Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, tweeted, “The combination of arrogance and ignorance that Jared Kushner brings to the Middle East is impressive. Just wow.”
Kushner is in over his head
Kushner is a 36-year-old real estate developer with no diplomatic experience. Yet he’s overseeing the US foreign policy agenda, with a specific focus on the Middle East.
Just one day before his inauguration in January, President Trump praised Kushner, saying, “If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”
Since then, Kushner has visited the Middle East to try to start the peace process. When he traveled there in June, he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and US officials told Reuters that he is likely to return often.
Kushner also played a central role in planning Trump’s stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Rome in May, reported the New York Times.
According to Khaled Elgindy, an analyst in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Kushner doesn’t need to be a veteran diplomat or an experienced negotiator — but he must “understand the nuances of this conflict.”
“The problem you have is that there’s a very steep learning curve,” said Elgindy. “But I’m not sure, based on what I read, that Kushner has caught up to that learning curve.”
As Kushner revealed at the end of Wired’s audio clip, despite all his bravado, he doesn’t seem to actually have any new ideas — or any ideas at all, really — for how to move negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians forward. Asked by someone during the off-the-record interview session how the Trump administration’s approach to peace is unique, he simply responded, “I don’t know.”
I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We're thinking about what the right end state is, 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. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.
By the end of his long, rambling answer, Kushner seems to have realized that he might not be able to broker peace in the Middle East. And he’s probably right.