Jun 2, 2019 - World

Kushner: "I'm not here to be trusted" by Palestinian leaders

"Axios on HBO" asked Jared Kushner, who hasn't had official talks with the Palestinian leadership in more than a year, whether he understands why the Palestinians don't trust him. (Since taking office, President Trump has moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, slashed all U.S. aid to the Palestinians and shuttered the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.)

Kushner replied: "I'm not here to be trusted" and that he thinks the Palestinian people — if not their leaders — will not "judge anything based on trusting me," but instead will judge the Trump peace plan "based on the facts and then make a determination: Do they think this will allow them to have a pathway to a better life or not?"

Why it matters: Kushner's critics say he has been dismissive of the Palestinians' political aspirations — to have their own state with a capital in East Jerusalem — and that he's instead trying to buy them off with the promise of tens of billions of dollars of new investment in the Palestinian territories.

  • Kushner responded by arguing that the Palestinian people want different things than the Palestinian leaders.
  • When I asked Kushner whether the Palestinians deserve their own independent sovereign state with the capital in East Jerusalem, he replied: "There's a difference between the technocrats and ... the people." While "the technocrats are focused on very technocratic things" (translation: Palestinian statehood), "when I speak to Palestinian people, what they want is they want the opportunity to live a better life. They want the opportunity to pay their mortgage."
  • Asked how he knows what the Palestinian people want given he's "not exactly walking on the streets of Ramallah every day," Kushner implied he's having lots of private conversations with regular Palestinians that people don't know about.
  • Watch the clip.

Behind the scenes: Given his commitment to secrecy, interviewing Kushner is a challenge. When I pressed him on what to expect next on the two big signature policies he's leading — the Middle East peace plan and the White House's immigration proposal — he was determined to say nothing newsworthy.

The more illuminating parts of the interview were when I asked him to set aside the details of his policy plans, which he refuses to disclose, and instead explain what he believes.

  • Does he think the Palestinian people are capable of governing themselves without Israeli military and governmental interference? Does he think the Palestinian people deserve their own state with a capital in East Jerusalem? How does he reconcile his family history as refugees with the Trump administration slashing refugee numbers — his answers were more revealing than anything he said when I pressed him for fresh details about the policies he's working on.
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