Over the past several years, a new certainty was added to death and taxes: Jared Kushner would fail in his role as the administration’s Middle East point man.
It caused considerable merriment among President Donald Trump’s critics (and even some of his well-wishers) when he put his son-in-law in charge of brokering peace in the Middle East at the outset of his administration.
It was assumed to be ridiculous that Trump had tapped the 39-year-old Kushner, not a diplomat nor an expert in the region, for this role and assumed that everything he did afterward was ridiculous, if not nefarious.
Rarely has so much mockery been directed at an approach that, in the event, was methodical and creative, and ultimately achieved a breakthrough.
Kushner did not make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, but no one else has, either. What he did was find a path for historic deals to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with perhaps other Arab countries to follow. The deals could transform the strategic environment of the region, isolating and reducing the influence of Iran and of a feckless and corrupt Palestinian political leadership.
If you’ve followed the commentary on Kushner’s efforts the past few years, you’d be truly shocked at this outcome.
It wasn’t just that his detractors were skeptical. They took it as a given that Kushner is an idiot and the entire thing was going to be an embarrassing debacle.
One of the administration’s projects was crafting a $50 billion economic plan for the Palestinians, then holding a conference in Bahrain promoting it. A piece in the progressive publication Mother Jones was titled “Highlights From Jared Kushner’s Bizarre and Fantastical Middle East Peace Conference.”
When the administration prepared to follow this up with a peace plan, an expert warned in Foreign Policy: “Trump Must Not Let Jared Kushner’s Peace Plan See the Light of Day.” When the plan was released, another expert wrote an analysis for The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “I’m a Veteran Middle East Negotiator. Trump’s Plan is the Most Dangerous I’ve Ever Seen.” A column in the Washington Post declared, “The Trump administration’s new Mideast ‘peace’ plan is absurd.”
Vox opined, “Jared Kushner, architect of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, still doesn’t get it.”
Vanity Fair ridiculed a Kushner criticism of the Palestinian leadership as “Jared Kushner: Palestinians Have Never Done Anything Right in Their Sad, Pathetic Lives.” It noted there was video: “Don’t worry, there’s footage of Kushner making this statement, so it can be played back for all eternity.”
It seems pretty unlikely that anyone is going to go back to it now.
The critics took great umbrage at Kushner’s admonishing the Palestinian leadership, not realizing that they were beholden to an out-of-date conventional wisdom. The tectonic plates were shifting such that the only path to peace no longer ran through the Palestinians, if it ever did. The frustration that Kushner was expressing was shared by Arab leaders.
Of course, since Kushner had been intensely engaged in the region, he understood this when most of the journalists and advocates portraying him as a hopeless ignoramus had no idea. He knew what he was talking about when they, by and large, didn’t.
Trump’s fans call Trump a disrupter, too often simply to excuse anything he does. But in the case of the Middle East, he overturned the policy he inherited, did things no other president would (especially the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem), and then was in a position to capitalize when something shook loose.
This is an undeniable achievement and one that was intelligently conceived. With honorable exceptions, very few Trump critics have been willing to give credit where it’s due.
For them, as ever, it’s on to the next thing, but the record will show who got this one right and who marinated in their own self-righteous disdain.
© 2020 by King Features Syndicate