Photo: Sean Gallup/Staff/Getty Images
President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner told me in an exclusive interview for Channel 13 News in Israel that he hopes the leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will work together to form a new government.
Why it matters: The fact that Kushner chose to make an unusual move and publicly convey the message — regardless that it has to do with domestic politics in Israel — shows the White House's wish to see a unity government.
The White House is signaling that a third election campaign in Israel will hamper U.S. plans for regional initiatives in the Middle East.
- Kushner met separately with Gantz and Netanyahu on Monday and spoke to them privately about the need to break the political stalemate in Israel.
Kushner told me his message in the meetings with Gantz and Netanyahu was that “now in the region there really are tremendous opportunities … so it will be great for Israel to figure out how to form a government so we can start working on all the big priorities and opportunities that exist."
- He added: “They [Gantz and Netanyahu] are the experts on how to put this together and hopefully they will be able to find a way to do that."
- Kushner said that by "opportunities," he was referring to the long-awaited Trump administration Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and the possibility of a breakthrough in relations between Israel and Arab countries like Saudi Arabia.
- “You have a different sentiment in the region of countries that want to do a lot of business with Israel economically. There is a lot of desire to do military partnerships with Israel, but you need to have a government in order to seize some of those opportunities that I believe exist today," he told me.
The big picture: Kushner’s meeting with Gantz was the first of its kind.
- I asked Kushner to give me his impression of Gantz: “Benny was a great general in the IDF and he did a great job there and served Israel tremendously, and he seems to have a good intention to try and bring good to Israel, and hopefully he will be able to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu and find a way to move forward," he said.
Kushner said the White House is still keen to publish its peace plan. “We have a lot of ideas and we want to put those ideas down and hopefully use that opportunity to bring the sides together on an issue that they have been apart on for a very long time," he added.
- Kushner said if the conditions are ripe, Trump could decide to release the plan before the 2020 elections.
During the interview, Kushner made several other points:
- He said the U.S. peace plan takes into consideration the fact that the Jordan Valley is essential to Israel’s security, but on the other hand, he stopped short of supporting Netanyahu’s plan of annexing the area.
- Kushner said the U.S. is willing to engage with the Palestinians but is not willing to do it in a way that America is disrespected or making bad investments. He stressed that Palestinian poor governance and lack of security, freedoms and rule of law are the main reasons that companies don’t want to invest in the West Bank and Gaza.
- He said he believes the Palestinians might be willing to engage once the U.S. publishes its peace plan because “people will be rational actors."