Being a son-in-law is not a qualification, even if you are the son-in-law of the leader of the strongest country in the world. This does not qualify you to become an expert, let alone a negotiator, on the Middle East. That seems to be the case of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, and his envoy to the Middle East.
What a contrast? Just review these two strikingly different statements.
First, made by the then President-elect Trump, on January 17, that said: Jared Kushner (Ivanka Trump’s husband) would take on the task of negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians to “broker a Middle East peace deal. I know he will do a very good job.”
Second, a revealing off-the-record speech he made to the US Congress interns, leaked to the press on July 31 in Washington, in which Kushner clearly said: “After all, there may be no solution to Middle East peace”.
Kushner’s statement came after his return from his Middle East trip during which he held extensive and intensive talks last month with top Palestinian and Israeli officials, in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah. His hosts included President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
You simply can’t toy about with a case of that magnitude that has been hindering normal life in the region for 50 years in this casual way. Trump should be the first to realise this fact.
If the man who was appointed by the most powerful leader in the world for a specific mission seems, merely six months after his appointment, to have given up his responsibilities, why bother charging him with such a significant job in the first place.
What Kushner has effectively done is “disqualifying himself” from overseeing the US Middle East peace policy, according to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive member, Hanan Ashrawi. She told The Jerusalem Post two days after the leak, that Trump’s adviser on the ME disqualified himself because he’s entirely “adopted Israel’s position” in the negotiation between the two parties.
Kushner, sitting beside the US ambassador to Israel, David Melech Friedman, defended, during his talks with the Palestinian delegation in Ramallah, the Israeli view of the latest confrontation at the Al Haram Al Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, with the local Palestinians. He and Friedman saw the confrontation simply as a “result of Palestinian incitement”.
Friedman, whose appointment as an ambassador to Israel was confirmed last March, is considered by many to be of great advantage to Netanyahu. He is not only fully supportive of Netanyahu’s right-wing government, but he is well known for his historic support for the most extreme elements of the Zionist colony movement. Contrary to previous US ambassadors to Israel, Friedman’s confirmation vote split largely on partisan lines. All Republicans in the Congress Foreign Relations Committee voted in favour and all but one Democrat opposed him.
Yet, tens of thousands of liberal American Jews signed a petition opposing his nomination to the job, and several major Jewish organisations and hundreds of rabbis have also objected. However, Friedman, himself son of a New York rabbi, is Trump’s man in Israel. His personal relationship with the president goes back almost 16 years as a bankruptcy lawyer, and he officially joined Trump’s campaign as his adviser on Israel in 2016.
During their talks with the Palestinians, Kushner and Friedman, both Orthodox Jews, were almost dictating to them what they needed to do in the suggested talks, a source privy to the talks told this writer. Kushner’s Palestinian host felt that he apparently had no qualification whatsoever, other than being the president’s son-in-law, when it comes to the Middle East history and problems. It seems that the meeting with him was almost a waste of time not only because of his lack of the necessary knowledge of the region’s history, “but also of the needs and requirements for a solution”.
Ashrawi seems to have deliberately brought the Palestinian grievances in the open. Abbas and his Palestinian delegation were extremely angry and disappointed by Kushner’s ignorance of the crisis back ground, as well as his arrogance when he blamed the Palestinians for the latest flare up in occupied Jerusalem.
“If you don’t know the significance of the holy places and the fact that Israel is changing not just the status quo but religious responsibility there, and you don’t know the impact of offending people’s spiritual commitments and feelings, then you don’t know anything about the solution itself,” Ashrawi said.
Kushner was apparently addressing the issue in his meeting with the Palestinians as if he was a lecturer. He stressed the importance “of not being bogged down” in history of the conflict. “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”, he said.
Kushner is clearly not fit to be a mediator in any peace-making efforts. With his little experience in politics, and his Zionist narrative, Kushner cannot be expected to know anything better.
President Trump will do the Middle East a huge favour by recalling his son-in-law from this mission.
Mustapha Karkouti is a former president of the Foreign Press Association, London. You can follow him on Twitter at @mustaphatache.