President-elect Donald Trump said in a New York Times interview his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, could help bring Middle East peace.
Kushner is one of the president-elect’s most trusted advisers and reports indicated Trump would seek a formal role in the administration for him. Trump said in an on-the-record meeting at the Times that Kushner, who is a real estate developer, wouldn’t likely be in the White House but could help negotiate one of the world’s most complicated conflicts.
Kushner, 35, has no government experience.
Trump spoke with Times reporters and editors Tuesday after canceling the planned meeting via Twitter earlier that morning. Reports indicate Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus erroneously led the president-elect to believe the Times had changed the agreed-to conditions of the meeting and encouraged Trump to cancel it. The Times reported that Priebus was afraid Trump would receive questions he might not be prepared to answer.
Peace between the Israelis and Palestinians has remained one of the U.S.’ most evasive foreign policy goals. Past presidents and diplomats have failed to reach an agreement palatable to both sides, who both lay claim to Jerusalem and surrounding territory.
President Bill Clinton successfully oversaw the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, which called for Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Clinton was unable to bring about definitive peace between the two parties, with his 2000 Camp David Summit ending without an agreement.
The most recent peace effort was led by Secretary of State John Kerry, but since those negotiations collapsed in 2014 there has been little hope for a revived process. Israel relies heavily on the U.S. for national security and defense funding and cooperation, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resisted making concessions that would be necessary to end the decades-long conflict. He and President Barack Obama have a chilly relationship, and Netanyahu has bristled as condemnation from Obama to Israeli settlement building, which U.S. policy sees as counterproductive to a two-state solution.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has similarly little political will to compromise with the Israelis, leaving the conflict deadlocked at a low simmer.
Because of controversy over the status of Jerusalem, the U.S. embassy is in Tel Aviv. Trump has vowed to move it to Jerusalem, but both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush promised to do the same but never did. They, along with President Barack Obama, signed waivers every six months preventing a bill passed by Congress in 1995 that would have punished the State Department for not moving the facility from coming into effect. All three administrations calculated moving the embassy could damage the prospects for future peace efforts and draw ire from the Arab world.