White House

Kushner to visit Israel to meet with potential new government leaders

Jared Kushner, who is leading the Trump administration’s policymaking process on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will travel to Israel with his team later this month to assess the nation’s political environment after its latest round of inconclusive elections.

Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel’s largest opposition party, a source familiar with the matter told McClatchy.

The two Israeli leaders are engaged in an intense dispute over the formulation of Israel’s next government, after neither man succeeded in winning a clear majority bloc in the September 17 election.

Kushner will travel to the region with Avi Berkowitz, who will soon succeed Trump’s outgoing special envoy on the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt. The administration’s special envoy on Iran policy, Brian Hook, will also join the delegation.

The trip will serve in part as a debut for Berkowitz in the chief negotiating role.

The White House team does not anticipate rolling out its proposals for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace until after Israeli lawmakers form a coalition – a goal that has eluded Netanyahu, the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, twice in one year.

Trump did not call Netanyahu after the election, stating to the media that the administration’s relationship is with Israel – not a single leader.

But the formation of a government led by Gantz might change Kushner’s calculus as he plans the debut of a highly-anticipated “vision” for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders have dismissed the effort out of hand as an effort to reframe the terms of the conflict.

The team will also travel to Saudi Arabia with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to attend an economic conference the United States skipped last year in the wake of the murder of a U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, at the direction of Saudi leadership.

Michael Wilner joined McClatchy as its White House correspondent in 2019. He previously served as Washington bureau chief for The Jerusalem Post, where he led coverage of the Iran nuclear talks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the 2016 US presidential campaign. Wilner holds degrees from Claremont McKenna College and Columbia University and is a native of New York City.