The Palestinian Authority cautiously welcomed news on Monday that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s Jewish sonin- law, will serve as the president- elect’s Middle East peace envoy, expressing hope that he will maintain a fair balance regarding the ongoing conflict with Israel.
“We hope that Mr. Kushner will be the US peace envoy and will be able to do what all of his predecessors have tried to do, and will finally achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Husam Zomlot, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser for strategic affairs, told The Jerusalem Post. “This is a position that requires a firm commitment to the US’s longheld policies.”
Zomlot said it was encouraging that Trump announced the appointment even before taking office, a possible indication that he was committed to working on a peace deal between the sides.
“It’s a good sign that President- elect Trump early on appointed one of his closest people, his son-in-law, to take this task,” Zomlot added. “We don’t just see the glass half-empty, but also half-full. We see the commitment by President-elect Trump to intervene as early as possible and spend political capital to resolve this issue.”
Trump is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the very first weeks of his presidency. According to a report on Monday night by Channel 10, the prime minister will meet Trump in the first week of February.
In a weekend interview with Britain’s Times
and Germany’s Bild
, Trump said that Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, would take on the task of negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians – an appointment Trump had previously floated due Kushner’s knowledge of the region and players.
“Ya know what, Jared is such a good kid, and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can,” Trump said of Kushner. “He’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural – ya know what I was talking about, natural – he’s a natural deal-maker. Everyone likes him.”
The president-elect, who will be inaugurated as America’s 45th president on Friday, has repeatedly discussed his interest in securing a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, an agreement he has referred to as the greatest deal of them all.
Kushner has no previous diplomatic experience, but steered Trump’s foreign policy throughout his presidential campaign and subsequent presidential transition. He was the primary drafter of Trump’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March, which drew positive feedback from the crowd.
“What we know: he’s a really tough, smart guy, and we hope he will bring new energy to our region,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said of Kushner last month.
As a member of the president’s family, Kushner had to retain a law firm to navigate him through potential legal obstacles to work for his fatherin- law – specifically, a federal anti-nepotism law which states that “a public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official.”
But his legal counsel, WilmerHale, concluded last month that precedent was laid for Kushner by Trump’s former rival, Hillary Clinton, who won a court case in the 1990s in her fight to chair a national task force on health care reform for her husband, then-president Bill Clinton. That case found that existing law bans appointments to agencies and departments, but not within the White House itself.
“He clearly is someone who has a sense of Jewish identity, and he is someone who has a genuine attachment to Israel and understanding of the importance of the US-Israel relationship,” Dennis Ross, a senior Middle East diplomat and veteran of the George H. W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations, told the Post. “People I know who know him describe him as smart, as someone who will clearly learn what he needs to learn, and will approach things thoughtfully, carefully, even analytically. So those would all be descriptors that I would hope would be accurate and emblematic of how he’ll approach his responsibilities helping the new president.”
Kushner and his wife – who converted upon their marriage in 2009 – are Orthodox Jews. They are in the process of moving to Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood
, where they will be neighbors with the Clintons, the Obamas and several of the world’s ambassadors to the US.
Trump declined to comment in the interview on whether he would move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite aides of his insisting it is a top priority for the incoming president. He did, however, reiterate his disappointment with the outgoing administration’s decision to abstain from a vote at the UN Security Council last month which declared all land beyond the 1967 lines as “occupied,” including the Western Wall.
“The Palestinians are given so much – even though it’s not legally binding, it’s psychologically binding, and it makes it much tougher for me to negotiate,” Trump said. “You understand that? Because people are giving away chips, they’re giving away all these chips.”Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.