Saturday, February 3, 2018

Where Is Jared Kushner?

One thing we can say about Ivanka Trump: she didn’t marry a man who was just like her father. Jared Kushner is nothing like his father-in-law. He has been low-profile. He has not made himself available to the press. He does not have a strange hair-do. He has done his job quietly… but, as Ahmed Charai writes, successfully.

For the record, Moroccan publisher Charai is on the board of several foreign policy organizations, from the Atlantic council to the Center for Strategic and International Studies to the Center for the National Interest.

On Middle East diplomacy, Charai knows whereof he speaks. He understands that Kushner does not have a great deal of diplomatic experience and never studied Near Eastern politics. Still, Charai continues, Kushner has done a very good job. Since no one is reporting this it is worth your attention:

Lacking years of diplomatic experience and advanced degrees in Near Eastern politics, his appointment seemed more like favoritism than a confirmation of expertise, more a presidential gift to his daughter than a strategic decision.

What little coverage Kushner has received has varied from skeptical to scornful. And, tellingly, he hasn’t tried to dispel the pundits’ prejudices. He doesn’t travel with reporters or invite press attention. His few appearances are fleeting and uneventful.

Still, his frequent visits and stray public remarks reveal a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of the region. Behind the scenes, he is making surprising progress.

What does Kushner know that the experts have not known? Charai lists two important points:

First, he recognizes that Iran now matters more to the Arabs than Palestine. With Iran and Islamic militants threatening the survival of major Arab states, many Arab leaders have quietly decided to align with Israel—dialing down their interest in the Palestinian drama. 

Second, Kushner realizes that younger Arab generation has a fundamentally different perspective from that of its elders. More than 60 percent of Arabs are too young to remember the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel, and many more regard them as ancient history.… As a result, younger Arabs largely accept Israel’s existence as a settled fact, and generally see trading with its prosperous economy as essential to their own economic growth. I know. I have heard them tell me these things in the privacy of their living rooms. Their septuagenarian leaders do not share their views, and punish younger leaders who try to independently engage with Israelis—which only deepens the divide.

Kushner has some specific advantages:

First, he enjoys the complete trust of the president and has continuous real-time access to Trump. Few U.S. negotiators, at least since Henry Kissinger, have had such a unique bond with the president.

Second, he is liked and trusted by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its influential ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Obama administration officials often publicly faulted Israel’s elected leaders, and the relationship was, at best, lukewarm.

Third, Kushner has befriended Saudi Arabia’s thirty-one-year-old deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Both are seen as tech-savvy, young disrupters of the status quo, and both favor practical solutions over symbolic displays. Saudi pressure on Qatar to end its funding of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group, would not have happened with earlier generations of Saudi leadership.

You might consider the Kushner’s appointment smacks of nepotism. It is fair to say that no other president would have given him the job he has. And yet, many of the Arabian countries he is dealing with are monarchies. They are not allergic to nepotism. And they are confident that Kushner speaks for the president… surely a decisive factor in any diplomacy.

Importantly, Kushner is developing a good reputation in the region:

Other Gulf Arab leaders that I have met with tell me that they have heard positive things about Kushner, and are eager to work with him.

Charai concludes by asking and answering the question of whether peace is possible between Arabs and Israelis:

Is peace between Arabs and Israelis possible? Consider the case of my homeland, Morocco. Under the leadership of King Mohamed VI, a constitutional monarchy has emerged with legal protections for Jews and other religious minorities. Here in Casablanca, Jews and Muslims attend each other’s schools, form business partnerships and leave peacefully side by side. With a dose of Kushner’s quiet diplomacy, there is no reason Arabs and Jews couldn’t live the same way in Israel and Palestine.

Admittedly, this is an optimistic take on the situation. But, it is cogent and well-reasoned. And it is being ignored by the American media.


whitney said...

It is totally ignored by the media. And in today's media climate, that generally means things are going well for Trump and his administration.
Or maybe its been always. No news is good news after all

James said...

I agree with Charai, with the exception of his take on his own homeland. I don't things are as calm there as he thinks.

Sam L. said...

The waters are good in Casablanca, I hear.

James said...

"The waters are good in Casablanca, I hear." Heh, I bet they are.
Sam one of my favorite lines is from that movie; Sidney Greenstreet; (I think it goes)
"I am the well respected leader of all illegal activities in Casablanca".

Sam L. said...

James, mine are "Round up the usual suspects." and "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here." Capt. Renault had great lines.

James said...

Yes he did. Remember the scene where Rick pulls the pistol and says "this is pointed right at your heart Louie! Yes, the least vulnerable part of my body!" wonderful stuff.

Sam L. said...

I suspect the media are ignoring Kushner because the Israelis and the Arabs are getting along so well with each other. The enemedia does not want to mention anything that would redound to Trump's favor. Obama wouldn't (and likely couldn't) have done that, so they just ignored it.