Problems in the Middle East might give Donald Trump the cover he needs to ditch Jared Kushner

The suggestion that Michael Flynn might implicate Kushner in his evidence to the Mueller inquiry has only served to fuel talk of a possible breach between the President and his son-in-law

Will Gore
Monday 04 December 2017 16:34 GMT
Jared Kushner denies any collusion with Russia
Jared Kushner denies any collusion with Russia

Anything Tony Blair can’t do, Jared Kushner probably can’t do better. Then again, when it comes to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conundrum, a 36-year-old real estate investor possibly has as good a shot as anyone else.

Back in January, Kushner was appointed Senior Advisor to his father-in-law, the President of the USA, Donald Trump – a reward for his loyal support and guidance during the presidential campaign. To almost universal surprise he was immediately charged with brokering peace in the Middle East in what seemed like a super-charged task from The Apprentice.

Nearly a year on and we have finally had a sighter of Kushner’s progress, which seems slight to say the least. At a closely-observed talk at the Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday, there was little detail as to how Kushner and his President actually plan to close what would surely be the deal of the century. Instead, a confident demeanour allied itself to platitudes about how solving the long standing Palestinian-Israeli puzzle was necessary to “create more stability in the region”. Bravo indeed!

Trump: 'Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life.'

As to why Trump and Kushner might be able to succeed where Blair (in his Middle East envoy role) and myriad others have failed, the young man insisted that the President’s track record was sufficient to offer grounds for optimism. In essence, if Trump can pull off a successful run for the White House, he and his team can achieve anything. It was the kind of thing that would come from the Donald himself – plenty of belief and bluster but little real information.

Ironically, Kushner’s first public speech on the issue came at the beginning of a week in which his wife’s dad has to decide whether to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – or whether to postpone the switch once again, as he and his successors have been doing every six months for over two decades.

Despite being approved by Congress in 1995, US presidents have perennially declined to initiate the transfer from Tel Aviv for the fairly obvious reason that formally to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may not go down well with the Palestinians. Until a peace deal is struck, any move has the potential to inflame tensions, rather than temper them.

Trump, however, may have come up with a cunning plan, if press briefings emanating from “advisors” are to be believed. It is suggested that he will shortly sign another postponement but then later in the week give a speech in which he will offer some sort of Presidential endorsement of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital city. Indeed, this plan is so crafty in its having and eating of cake, it might have been developed by Boris Johnson.

Longstanding Middle-East watchers are unconvinced by this masterstroke of diplomacy, however, and it is certainly hard to see how such a manoeuvre is likely to aid Kushner’s endeavours.

But then, such is the revolving nature of the staff door at the White House, that one wonders whether there should be any reason to think Kushner will be any better at hanging around than others. Indeed, rumours have swirled on and off for months that a distance has opened up between the President and his son-in-law. The suggestion that Michael Flynn might implicate Kushner in his evidence to the Mueller inquiry (by fingering him as the man who allegedly told Flynn to contact the Russians last December) has only served to fuel talk of a possible breach.

Kushner, it must be said, denies any collusion with Russia. Yet if Trump wanted a convenient way to put talk of a renewed Middle East peace process on the back-burner and thus have an excuse to ditch Kushner, wouldn't a rumpus over Jerusalem’s capital status be handy?

In the end, much may depend on the degree to which Trump decides that blood is thicker than water, and his view on which camp Kushner falls into. He is, after all not a Trump himself.

Still, he gained the President’s ear by marrying into the dynasty and has effectively been given a job on the basis of nepotism, not of experience or qualifications. His rise is emblematic of the way Trump works on the combined basis of instinct and ego: he may have a gut feeling that Kushner could succeed in bringing peace to the Middle East, but if he does the glory will reflect not only on the Presidency but also on the wider dynastic ambition which Trump seems to hold dear. The problem for Kushner, is that any failing must not be allowed to drag the Trump name through the mud.

In the end, whether Kushner achieves the unexpected or whether he does not, he must know it will be the patriarch of the family who either takes the credit or deflects the blame. Parents eh?

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