The Kushner Amateur Hour

Embassy Dedication Ceremony
Embassy Dedication Ceremony

One week after Jared Kushner announced the peace ‘deal of the century’ a wave of terrorism began in Israel. Frankly, I’m surprised it took so long.

Kushner’s announcement, embraced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trampled upon Palestinian honor. Kushner, starring in his own amateur hour, succeeded in insulting Arabs in many ways.

First, Kushner announced this deal without getting input from the Palestinians. He dismissed them at the same time he was being dismissive of them. Then the American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, seemingly on-cue from Kushner, said that Israel could ignore the Palestinians and go ahead and start annexing parts of the West Bank (he has since walked this back).

Even if Kushner’s meant this paper as a proposal for peace negotiations that was not how he presented it. It was presented as a fait accompli where he even called the Israeli government to come to Washington to celebrate it. He presented his deal as an American permit for Israel to run roughshod over the Palestinians. And when someone tries to take away your power you do everything you can to reassert it.

The ABC’s of mediating negotiations is to first get buy-in from the parties involved. They must be heard and feel that they have been heard. But Kushner failed to get the Palestinians to come to the negotiation table. So instead of admitting failure, Kushner arrogantly did what his father-in-law is known to do: he announced victory. Kushner simply ignored the Palestinians. And there is no bigger insult than simply ignoring someone.

Had Kushner said he was putting forth a peace proposal instead of what seemed like a done deal we would not be seeing the bloodshed that we are seeing now. And the terrorism is just getting started.

Yet the Kushner Amateur Show goes on. Not only did Kushner indirectly insult the Palestinians by ignoring them, he decided to directly insult them by calling them derogatory names. Kushner went to the media and called top Palestinian leaders, such as Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat, failures and liars. True or not true, this is not a successful method for bringing people to the negotiation table.

And yet the Kushner Amateur Show goes on. Not only did Kushner indirectly and then directly insult the Palestinians, he publicly declared this deal was the last opportunity for them to create a contiguous Palestinian state. So basically Kushner threatened the Palestinians. ‘Either you agree to this deal or negotiate based around this framework or its over – you will never get a contiguous State.’ Well it turns out Arabs, like most people, don’t like to be threatened. It is insulting and emasculating.

And yet the Kushner Amateur Show goes on. Kushner offered the Palestinians a bribe. Give up on your national aspiration for controlling your own borders, controlling the whole West Bank, controlling Al Quds, enabling Palestinians living in exile to return home to their houses and you will receive an injection into your economy of 50 billion dollars. Offering someone a bribe is insulting. It is demeaning.  It is implying that you care more about money than you do about your values.

If Kushner had only befriended Arabs from the West Bank when he spent time in Israel instead of Jews from Birthright he might have learned that Arabs don’t care about money like people in the West do. If someone in the West feels an item he bought in a store is defective, he will fight the store owner tooth and nail to get a full refund. An Arab won’t. He feels it is beneath him. He would rather walk away because his honor is worth more than his money.

If money were a priority for Palestinians they would have accepted numerous peace proposals offered to them in the past. It’s almost like Kushner has no experience in negotiating international political conflicts. It’s almost as if Kushner got this job because he is related to someone in power. Kushner is so far afield from reality he reminds me of the Arabic idiom: the shepherd is in one valley and his flock is in another.

Let me be clear: The fact that the Palestinian leadership has refused to come to the negotiation table for many years places the blame of no peace in the Middle East squarely on their shoulders. I also don’t claim to have a plan for Middle East peace. But I can’t think of a poorer demonstration of statesmanship than what Jared Kushner just did. Kushner’s efforts did not advance our chance for peace; he hurt it.

Kushner should have adhered to the medical principle: first, do no harm. Kushner’s injudicious behavior and immature name-calling follows in the footsteps of his father-in-law and it has threatened the safety of all Israeli citizens. Kushner’s proclamation will have repercussions far into the future. The Palestinians have claimed for years that America is not an honest broker in the Middle East and now Kushner had just flagrantly proved them right.

All of this was all so predictable. And yet Kushner didn’t see it. Jared Kushner has stepped in camel dung and is carelessly walking around the Middle East. We, the Israelis, will be cleaning up after him for years to come.

 

About the Author
Robby Berman has a Masters (MPA) from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, a Masters (MBA) from the Baruch School of Business and is the founder & director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society (www.hods.org).
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