Kushner was at bat when the ump called “strike one”
Sending poor Jared Kushner to beard the old men of Middle East, Abbas and Netanyahu, was like sending him into the ring with Floyd Mayweather - it was no contest. Kushner was received diplomatically by King Abdullah II in Jordan, who, to no one’s surprise, stressed the need for a two state solution. But the King was unable to shake Kushner on the Trump Administration’s retreat from our long standing policy of advocating for two-states. Kushner breezed through Saudi Arabia on the wings of the 100 million dollar arms sale he helped to solidify in May and on the warmth of his wife and Trump daughter, the “Princess Royal” Ivanka who was lionized on Twitter world by Saudi women. The UAE was an easy touch, since my old war time colleague Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, now Crown Prince, has been ever skeptical of Iran since I dealt with him in the first Gulf war. That attitude dovetails nicely with Trumpworld.
So the Gulf states, minus Qatar, provided a happy chorus with promises of support for Kushner’s mission impossible. Unfortunately, while the Gulf states can wave flags of “normalization,” they cannot change the facts on the ground or the attitudes of Netanyahu or Abbas. A sour note accompanied Kushner’s stop in Egypt where he arrived on the back of Secretary of State Tillerson’s announced reduction in US military aid to Egypt. Clearly, somebody forgot that the boy would be in Egypt meeting with President Sisi at that moment. It is inconceivable to me that such a cockup could happen unless there was malicious intent somewhere in the Administration. But then again, in my 35 year career, I never had a President like “the Donald.”
Jared was apparently given no ammunition to take to Ramallah when he spoke to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, other than to promise a clarification of the US position in three or four months. With that check safely in the mail, Abbas, true to form, backed off. All of this was a side show, however, to Kushner’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I don’t know whether Kushner is a good salesman. I hope he is, or at least I hope he is a fast learner. But after considerable experience, and working with Netanyahu on the settlements issue, I know that the Prime Minister is a master salesman who is adept at bending the truth to his advantage and at manipulating his adversaries. And make no mistake, when it comes to settlements, which are the key to his survival as Prime Minister, Netanyahu’s relationship to us is adversarial. To gauge the success of Kushner’s mission, all we needed to hear was Netanyahu’s pledge, delivered a few scant days after his meeting with Kushner: “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting ofsettlements in the Land of Israel.” “This is the inheritance of our ancestors,“ he said. “This is our land.” — Well done Jared.
Objectively, if you were planning a negotiating visit to the Middle East, you probably would not have chosen a window in which Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife are facing indictment for corruption, when our President is distracted by similar legal questions, when Abbas is facing internal rebellion from Hamas and Dahlan, and when the settler movement in Israel is at its most powerful. Even Moses would have had trouble parting the Red Sea with such a strongwind in his face. But after many years of trying to find a path to peace, I found that there was never a good time to open peace negotiations with the Israelis and Palestinians unless you are willing and able to deal with the camel in the room - Israeli settlements.