The Palestinians do not like US President Donald Trump’s envoys to the Middle East. Why? The answer — which they make blindingly clear — is because they are Jews.
In the Palestinian perspective, all three envoys — Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, cannot be honest brokers or represent US interests because, as Jews, their loyalty to Israel surpasses, in the Palestinian view, their loyalty to the United States.
Sound like anti-Semitism? Yes, it does, and such assumptions provide further evidence of Palestinian prejudices and misconceptions. The Palestinians take for granted that any Jew serving in the US administration or other governments around the world should be treated with suspicion and mistrust.
Moreover, the Palestinians do not hesitate to broadcast this view.
Take for example, the recent Palestinian uproar over statements made by Friedman in an interview with the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post.
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As a high-level negotiating team headed by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner heads to the Middle East this week, Palestinian and Arab leaders have underlined that they will not consider any solutions that deviate from the 2002 Saudi-backed peace initiative — which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
Kushner will arrive in the region on Thursday accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, the administration’s special envoy for international negotiations, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell. The team will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, before heading to further meetings in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.
In a joint declaration in advance of the American visit, the Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers, meeting in Cairo, welcomed US involvement in advancing the peace process, but implicitly warned against any flirtation with political solutions that do not involve a separate Palestinian state. Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki asserted that the “united Arab position” was that “there will be no peace without the establishment of a Palestinian state within the ’67 borders,” while his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman al-Safadi, said the Americans needed to understand that “we are not coming up with a new proposal.”
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Dear Jared Kushner,
I have been reading the remarks you made to a group of congressional interns about the difficulties of finding a solution to the Middle East conflict. Among other things, you said this: “We’re thinking about what the right end-state is, and we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”
It’s good that you appreciate the complexities of this situation. The failure to understand the dynamics of this problem and the attempt instead to frame it as Westerners frame all conflicts is one of the reasons why this one remains so intractable.
I’m afraid, though, that you nevertheless fall into precisely the same trap. You said you had spoken to “a lot of people” who were involved in previous negotiations, which had taught you that “this is a very emotionally charged situation.”
Well, yes. I think we all kind of knew that already, don’t you?
You said: “You know everyone finds an issue, that ‘You have to understand what they did then’ and ‘You have to understand that they did this.’” But how does that help us get peace?
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The controversy over President-elect Trump’s expected appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, raises serious constitutional issues regarding the separation of powers. Congress, which holds the purse strings, may have the power to withhold the salary of a relative who the president wants as an advisor. But it is doubtful whether Congress has the constitutional power to preclude the president — who heads the executive branch — from appointing whomever he chooses as a White House advisor. This is because the separation of powers limits the authority of any one branch to dictate to another branch how it shall conduct its government business. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of the United States does not feel bound by Congressional enactments regarding the recusal of judges for conflict of interest, or other rules of ethics enacted by Congress to constrain its judicial activities. The question of when one branch intrudes on another is often a matter of degree, but each branch guards its independence jealously.
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Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s long and baffling march to power took another odd Jewish turn this week, with the news they have selected a synagogue in D.C., where they will move into a $5.5 million house in preparation for their roles in the incoming Trump Administration. The newly christened (can you say that about Jews? I’m doing it anyway) “power couple” will attend TheSHUL, a Chabad synagogue just a seven-minute walk from their new 6,700 square feet, six-bedroom mansion with five wood-burning fireplaces (which is what’s really important to God on Shabbat, the walking). Oh, and the Obamas will be right around the corner, too. The congregation is led by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who has offered little on his potential new congregants, telling The Forward, “I haven’t commented and cannot comment on who might attend our synagogue. That is our policy.” Fair enough, Rabbi Shemtov.
I’m not really a synagogue person, so I can’t speak much to the internal board politics that might have ultimately discouraged Kushner and Trump from attending a Modern Orthodox congregation like Kesher Israel, which they reportedly also considered. That Georgetown shul is apparently a half-hour walk from their house, which to be fair, is hard to make in your Ivanka Trump-branded nude stilettos, even if you have, as I imagine is the case, surgically altered your metatarsals to look like Barbie feet. (We are women who work!) And I know plenty of non-Chabad people attend Chabad synagogues from time to time—former Senator Joseph Lieberman, and current Treasury Secretary and former Obama Chief of Staff Jack Lew have attended services at this one. And being a seeing person living in central Los Angles, I see many beardless men going into one of the approximately seventeen Chabad-like places a block from my house every Saturday while I’m walking the dog. Given who we’re talking about, it was probably too much to expect this particular couple would choose a denomination that was more egalitarian or further to the left on Israel, but given some of Trump père’s recent Twitter rhetoric on the nuclear issue, I might have hoped for a strain of Judaism that was less exclusive.
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President-elect Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would “love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” the New York Times reported.
“That would be such a great achievement,” the Republican was quoted as saying during a meeting with New York Times representatives at the newspaper’s Manhattan headquarters.
Furthermore, according to the New York Times, Trump suggested his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, who served as a close adviser to Trump during the presidential campaign, could help broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Alluding to his contentious relationship with the New York Times, Trump quipped, “I do read it. Unfortunately. I’d live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.”
In a statement given to Israel Hayom after his victory over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton two weeks ago, Trump said, “I believe that my administration can play a significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace — which must be negotiated between the parties themselves, and not imposed on them by others. Israel and the Jewish people deserve no less.”
Also, in a post-election interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “the war that never ends.”
“That’s the ultimate deal,” Mr. Trump said. “As a deal maker, I’d like to do…the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”
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