Donald Trump is about to be sworn into office as the least politically experienced president in American history. In and of itself that lack of experience isn’t particularly worrisome. There have been several recent presidents who were not Washington insiders. But in the case of chief executives such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush they were astute enough to surround themselves with advisors who did have the knowledge of Washington’s inner workings. Not so with Trump.
Trump’s cabinet picks are a menagerie of unqualified and semi-qualified individuals, with some having no experience in government at any level, such as Housing And Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, and Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson. But over the weekend Trump announced his plan to have one of his youngest and least experienced advisors assume the role of chief negotiator for the Middle East peace process.
Trump wants his son-in-law Jared Kushner to be the lead in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Kushner has handled Trump’s foreign policy through the campaign and presidential transition, but he has absolutely no diplomatic experience. He hardly seems like the guy to get the stalled process moving again.
The incoming Orange Emperor said in an interview with The Times Of London that Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, “knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.” But, according to The Guardian, neither Israeli politicians and business leaders nor their Palestinian counterparts know much about him.
Veteran diplomat Dennis Ross, who served in three presidential administrations, told The Jerusalem Post that Kushner’s Jewish identity would be an asset.
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.
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.
But The Guardian reports that Kushner has had little contact with Israeli officials, and apparently none with Palestinians. According to their report, Kushner has met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu; when he was a child and Netanyahu paid a visit to his father.
Kushner’s main contribution to Trump’s Mid-East policy so far is the speech he crafted for the then-candidate when he spoke to the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In that address, which was wildly popular with AIPAC members, Trump promised to increase pressure on Iran and to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Those plans are not going to win any support from Palestinians, and the very fact that he proposed them is going to make negotiations more challenging.
Trump hasn’t done a very good job explaining why Kushner is the best man for this difficult post. In his standard way, Trump told The Times Of London how capable he believes his son-in-law to be, without mentioning anything he sees as a qualification.
Jared is such a good kid, and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can. You know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural — you know what I was talking about, natural — he’s a natural deal-maker — everyone likes him.
Well, there it is, then. Two sides that have been at odds for years will suddenly come together to make peace because everybody involved is going to like Jared Kushner. Thank goodness Trump cleared that up.
Kushner is just the latest example of what seems to be a thoroughly cynical selection process for Trump. The black guy can be in charge of HUD because black people live in urban areas. A woman can run Education, since so many teachers are women. Of course a general gets to handle Defense. And the Jewish guy can manage the Middle East peace process because, you know, “Shalom” or something.
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