After months of behind-the-scenes work cultivating ties on both sides of the Arab-Israeli divide, Jared Kushner is ready for his debut on the global stage this week.
Come Wednesday, he’ll join his father-in-law when he welcomes Israel’s hawkish, hardline, headstrong Prime Minister at the White House. This will be Donald Trump’s first pow-wow with Benjamin Netanyahu as president, and SLOTUS (America’s son-in-law) cum unofficial special envoy for Middle East peace, will be by his side.
Though Kushner occupies a unique and perhaps unprecedented position in this administration, the circumstance he now finds himself in is decidedly unenviable. For even the most seasoned diplomats and foreign policymakers, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a pressure cooker assignment that can cause angst of an existential nature.
During the latter half of 2016, then-candidate Trump unceremoniously dumped this portfolio into Kushner’s lap, in a very public manner, before he’d doled out any other major diplomatic positions. Why, one might wonder, would the president, whose boundless admiration for his son-in-law is a matter of public record, give him the toughest assignment in foreign policy? Perhaps he’s decided to get strategic.
There are two dichotomous explanations for President Trump’s choice.
The first is that President Trump believes in Kushner’s talents so fiercely and unequivocally that he imagines him capable of out-maneuvering every foreign service officer at the State Department today and every bona-fide diplomat that has come before him. No matter that Mr. Kushner has never before tried his hand at foreign diplomacy nor lived in the region; in our president’s eyes, Kushner’s deal-making prowess is all the qualification he needs to get the job done. This is plausible.
A second explanation is that the POTUS is thinking about the matter more realistically, and after considering the historical trajectory of America’s quest for a viable Mideast peace deal, has come to the sensible conclusion that his own prospects for success during the next four to eight years range from slim to none. Because he has no real expectation of resolving the conflict during the course of his tenure, he’s decided to get strategic.
President Trump has come to realize that the situation demands what I call a place-holder-diplomat; someone who can be counted on to keep the issue in the public spotlight and convey the impression of activity and progress, while avoiding the familiar pitfall of trying to move the needle too far in either direction. Kushner fits the bill perfectly.
For starters, he is young, energetic, and earnest. For Americans who care about this issue and support Trump politically, Kushner’s got three attributes that make him the right choice for the job: he’s an outside-the-box choice, not part of the establishment, and is a proven deal-maker.
For Arab nations and the Palestinian people, there is the comforting matter of Kushner’s tenure at the helm of his family’s real estate empire, an experience from which he gained a deep-seated cultural appreciation for the region while working with, and among, its corporate power players.
For Netanyahu’s Israel, there’s a great deal of reassurance to be gleaned from Kushner’s Jewish faith and his prime position inside the president’s inner circle. Israel in the past has been especially concerned that their point-person be someone who’s high-profile and has unfettered access to the president.
In the Arab and Israeli worlds’ eyes, Jared Kushner is a perfectly plausible American arbiter of – if not peace -- then at least more process, procedure and posturing.
As an envoy for Middle East peace, he insulates the administration and preempts criticism from the major parties to the conflict in a way no one else really could.
Perhaps that’s all the winning we really need.
Gillian Turner is Fox News Contributor and Vice President at Jones Group International. She previously served at the National Security Council during the Bush and Obama administrations