Don’t Ignore Kushner’s Quiet Mideast Gains

    Ahmed Charai

    Politics, Middle East

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner delivers remarks on the Trump administration's approach to the Middle East at the Saban Forum in Washington, December 3, 2017. Reuters/James Lawler Duggan

    Behind the scenes, he is making surprising progress.

    He may be the most effective presidential Middle East envoy in decades, but he doesn’t get much respect from the press.

    It is hardly an understatement to say that Jared Kushner, a baby-faced real-estate magnate and presidential son-in-law, didn’t send expectations soaring when he was named to supervise Israel-Palestine peace efforts.

    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.

    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. Consider that President Trump’s plan to move the United States’ embassy in Israel to Jerusalem did not touch off huge protests in Arab capitals or angry editorials in the Arab press. Kushner was one of the strongest voices inside the White House in favor of the long-promised move. Any other mediator would fret that the move would needlessly complicate his job. Kushner knows that Iran has replaced Palestine as the center of Arab interest, and he spotted an opportunity that few in Washington saw.

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