Khalid M. Turaani
In early 2018, the Trump administration’s most notable heavy weights were National Security advisor H R McMaster, a US Army general, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps General and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Exxon CEO. When an aid to the President who couldn’t even maintain his security clearance, butts heads with the “grown-ups” in the administration and wins, he must be the President’s son-in-law. Prior to his father-in-law assuming the most powerful office on the planet, Jared Kushner’s foreign policy expertise would have been limited to traveling to posh resorts on private jets and occasionally on first class commercial flights. However, the one foreign issue Kushner knows more than anything else is the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to which he and his family have given generously
e then, Israel passed its inherently apartheid-like Basic Law, declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. The Trump administration recognized Israeli annexation of the occupied Golan Heights, and seems poised to acquiesce to Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex illegal West Bank settlements. To understand how extreme this Trump-Netanyahu coalition is, nine mainstream US Jewish organizations have written a letter to Trump pleading with him to restrain Netanyahu on the West Bank annexation plan.
The Trump administration unilateral recognition of the Israeli occupation over Jerusalem contravenes international laws and numerous UN resolutions. The move mounted to the US “coming out” on the side of Israel, when everyone knew it. Of course, none other than Jared Kushner presided over the ceremony to inaugurate the US embassy in Jerusalem, representing his father-in-law, Trump. On the issue of Palestinian refugees, Foreign Policy magazine recently published a confidential email in which Jared Kushner offered top White House and State Department officials his view on defunding UNRWA. In the January 11, 2018 leaked email, Kushner
wrote “It’s very important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA”. Nine months later, September 6, 2018, on a call to Jewish leaders marking the Jewish New Year, Trump boasted that he had completely defunded UNRWA and significantly cut US aid to Ramallah. However, funding for the PA security apparatus was spared. Defunding UNRWA means depriving 5.3 million Palestinian refugees of basic needs such as education and elemental health care.
To the chagrin of security professionals, Kushner was running his own backdoor diplomacy; Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf region, would normalize relations with Israel. In exchange Kushner was reported to have lobbied hard for political shield, from backlashes over human rights abuses as in the case of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashouggi, and the atrocities in Yemen and Libya. Apprehensive Arab governments are pushed to buy-into the deal through a combination of a carrot and stick approach. Jordan seems to bear the brunt of this coercive policy. Kushner who couldn’t secure a $1.2 billion refinancing for his disastrous purchase of
the most expensive office building Manhattan, at the time, is reported to be floating financial packages ranging from $25-$40 billion in Cash-for-Peace incentive to Israel’s neighbors, i.e. Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Ramallah.
Despite his non-existing experience in national security or foreign policy, his questionable security credentials, and reports of Israeli efforts to influence him, Kushner was put in charge of solving the world’s most enduring conflict since WWII. He was given access to the world’s most valued intelligence report, the President’s Daily Intelligence Briefing. Kushner, right or wrong has produced results on the most stubborn aspect of the most stubborn conflict globally. The one caveat to Kushner’s performance is that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is significantly above his pay-grade and definitely a stratosphere above his knowledge and experience in national security, geopolitics, negotiations, conflict resolution and international law. Only time
will reveal who has been Jared Kushner’s puppet master.