Jared Kushner may be Donald Trump’s son-in-law, but he is not like him. He’s calm. He listens more than he speaks. He is believed to have been the mastermind behind the first election campaign, which ended with the shocking and once unimaginable victory of Trump. Certainly, Trump lacks in official and social tact and decency, but he does not lack in the ability to argue, nor in electoral rhetoric or charisma, which is why he won the first election despite being a stranger to politics and coming from outside the Republican Party.
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I read a few chapters of “Breaking History,” Kushner's White House memoirs during Trump’s presidency, with a specific focus on our region. The importance of the book lies in that its author was Trump’s brains and top aide during his time in the White House.
Shortly after the announcement of Trump’s victory, concern rose among Arab governments for various reasons. In the Gulf, his repeated attacks on Saudi Arabia and his threats to pull his troops came as a shock. His talk of Muslims as enemies and his threats to some governments of Muslim countries led to associations with Samuel Huntington's “clash of civilizations” prophecy.
What Trump’s son-in-law narrates in his book is astounding. He tells of his attempts to fix what Trump’s election promises had spoiled. Ironically, it was the young Jewish man who persuaded the president-elect to narrow the gap with Saudi Arabia and correct his political rhetoric with the leading Muslim country. Riyadh took a step forward with Kushner, suggesting that instead of antagonizing one billion Muslims and fifty Muslim countries around the world, wouldn’t the president be better off communicating with them for the benefit of both sides?
Thus came about the first-of-its-kind Muslim-American Summit held in Riyadh, which was Trump’s first stop outside America as president. Never had so many of the fifty leaders of the Muslim world met with an American president under one roof. In Kushner’s book, we read how former Secretary of State Tillerson warned Kushner that he is against the visit and the summit.
“Beware of trusting the Saudis, he said. They do not keep their promises.” The summit eventually proved to be one of Trump’s most prominent political activities abroad.
Trump undoubtedly has many opponents in the US, and they have made him the target of their criticism with accusations of racism, chauvinism, and aggressiveness. Truth be told, Trump is a far cry from any of the 44 presidents who ruled the Unites States. He surely has his problems, such as his general political illiteracy, his approach to contentious issues, and his emotional language. Yet, he remains one of the most popular and opiniated presidents. To this day, he remains a force to be reckoned with, despite the attempts by his party and opponents alike to exclude him from the political area.
Constraining Trump is a difficult task. The broad-shouldered man with a piercing voice and a passion for challenging the media, who wrote 57,000 fiery tweets that eventually had Twitter shut down his account, cannot be silenced easily. Some of the arguments against him are true, but some are false. He is constantly accused of racism and xenophobia, yet not only does he have close and long-term ties and alliances with African Americans, but also his eldest daughter’s husband is Jewish, his other son-in-law is Lebanese, and his wife Melania is Yugoslavian. As for his relationships with white supremacists, they seem to be part of the necessities of political alliances.
In another chapter of his book, Kushner recounts his Arab-Israeli peace project and how he tried to market the deal to both sides, combining “rights” and interests. The main flaw here is that Kushner did not delve into the history of previous peace projects and their failure. First, peace is a suspicious and hated word for a section of Arab Palestinians and Israelis, which is why they killed their two most important peace-advocating leaders, Sadat and Rabin. The Palestinians squandered all these chances for two main reasons: one, they consider their “right” sacred, and two, they allowed others, like Saddam, Hafez al-Assad, and Gaddafi, to use them as pawns in opposition to negotiations for their own purposes.
Much like its predecessors, Kushner’s project was killed in the womb in favor of the agendas of Iran and extremist religious groups like ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.