Jared Kushner was named a White House adviser solely by the grace of his marriage to the president’s daughter. Given his lack of experience, he has largely — and wisely — opted to avoid the media and work behind the scenes. This changed recently when Kushner decided to sit down for a rare one-on-one interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios, which HBO aired on Sunday. The sit-down didn’t go very well for the real estate developer-turned-Middle East peace broker, as Swan pretty easily was able to talk Kushner into a corner on a number of issues, including the president’s racism.
Swan began by asking Kushner whether he’s seen any indication that Trump is a racist. Kushner of course said no. “You can’t not be a racist for 69 years and then run for president and be a racist,” he said, disregarding the countless examples of Trump’s pre-presidential racism. Then Swan dropped the second part of the question: “Was birtherism racist?”
“Look, I wasn’t really involved in that,” he said.
“I know you weren’t. Was it racist?”
“Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.”
“I know you weren’t,” Swan said again. “Was it racist?
“Look, I know who the president is and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So again, I was not involved in that.”
“Do you wish he didn’t do that.”
“Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.”
— Axios (@axios) June 2, 2019
Swan then asked Kushner whether Trump campaigning on banning Muslims from entering the United States was religiously bigoted. Again, Kushner deflected: “Look, I think the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign. I think he’s here today and he’s doing a lot of great things for the country and that’s what I’m proud of.”
This 38-year-old failed real estate developer is the man Trump has tapped to spearhead a number of crucial White House initiatives, including bringing peace to the Middle East. The task is so far above Kushner’s capacity as a dealmaker that it would be comical if it weren’t for the potentially disastrous ramifications of the president’s inept son-in-law trying broker an agreement between Israel and Palestine. The issue came up during his interview with Axios.
When Swan pressed Kushner about Palestine not trusting him or the United States, Kushner replied by essentially saying it doesn’t matter, and that though the Palestinian leadership may object to Trump moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, shutting down the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington, D.C. and cutting all aide to Palestinians, the Palestinian people are supportive. “I do believe they want to have a better life,” he said.
Kushner also said he isn’t sure if those people are capable of governing themselves without the influence of Israel. “The hope is that over time they can become capable of governing,” he managed, adding that Palestinians “need to have a fair judicial system … freedom of press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions.”
Jared Kushner on why the Palestinians would accept his Middle East peace plan:
"I'm not here to be trusted…They're gonna judge it 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?" @DCTVny @HBODocs pic.twitter.com/TVISoMmDBc
— Axios (@axios) June 3, 2019
Kushner’s highly anticipated plan to bring peace to the Middle East is slated to be released later this month, and just as many were confused about his immigration plan, which Trump announced last month, no one is expecting much substance from whatever he has devised to quell tension between Israel and Palestine. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that in a recent closed-door meeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Kushner’s plan may be “unexecutable” and might not “gain traction.”
“It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me,’ that is, ‘It’s got two good things and nine bad things, I’m out,'” Pompeo said in a recording of the meeting obtained by the Post. Pompeo also acknowledged that the plan would be weighted in favor of Israel. “I get why people think this is going to be a deal that only the Israelis could love,” he said. “I understand the perception of that. I hope everyone will just give the space to listen and let it settle in a little bit.”
Complicating matters is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government after winning re-election in April, leading Israeli lawmakers to vote to dissolve parliament and hold a new election in November. To cheer up his friend overseas, Trump signed a map showing Israel’s annexation of Golan Heights, another move recognized by the Trump administration that has roiled Palestine. “Nice!” Trump wrote next to the territory.
#Israel PM Netanyahu has had his worst day in politics, but to make him feel better Jared Kushner hand delivered new US map showing annexed Golan Heights as part of Israel. Trump wrote “Nice”: pic.twitter.com/T2Sh09FwqF
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) May 30, 2019
The map was hand-delivered by Kushner.