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Jared, Jerusalem, and Possible Jail Time

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chief | CC BY 2.0

Jared Kushner, 38-year-old “senior adviser” to his father-in-law Donald Trump, is also the president’s chief negotiator for Middle East peace. Trump has absolute confidence in Kushner, who like the president himself, is likely a moron. He rarely appears in public and we know little about him except that he is in real estate, has zero foreign policy experience or competence, and is Trump’s key link to Israel. Oh, and his dad went to jail for ugly inter-family crimes.

It cannot be said that he is unbiased in his approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict he’s been assigned to “solve.” (Not that many U.S. officials are, such being the awesome power of the Israel Lobby rooted as much in the Evangelical Christian community as in the Jewish Zionist one). But he is an extreme case: an ardent Zionist, friend of Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party, even defender and financier of ongoing illegally, internationally condemned Jewish settlement expansion on the occupied West Bank.

He quite likely influences Trump’s views on Israel more than anyone except perhaps Ivanka (Jared’s wife, whose conversion upon marriage to Orthodox Judaism the absolutely irreligious ‘Presbyterian” Trump welcomes as though his view shows openness to diversity).

Trump is widely considered a malignant narcissist incapable of empathy. He has famously had problems with his oldest son (whose political opportunism has long since trumped his Oedipal alienation), ignores his younger daughter, and has divorced two wives. Melania looks glum in his presence. I suspect that if he loves anybody, it’s his filial Ivanka (a key defender of his support for women and their rights), and through her, Jared, to whom (despite his total inexperience) he has showered praise and accorded ridiculous responsibilities.

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. embassy there, urged by Israeli prime minister and war criminal Netanyahu, was no doubt influenced deeply by Kushner and Ivanka.

But the question I want to raise is: what the hell did Kushner think he was doing when, during the transition period between administrations in December 2016, he instructed national security adviser-designate Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials to urge Moscow to veto the upcoming UN vote on a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement expansion?

He was saying, “If my own government under Obama won’t do it, will you?”

Did he really think Putin was going to rethink the longstanding position of Russia (and the entire world, apart from the U.S. and Israel itself) that Israeli behavior towards the Palestinian people is unacceptable and worthy of condemnation? Did he think that Moscow is so eager to curry favor with his father-in-law’s administration that it would change its historical, principled stance on this issue? (As it happened, Russia of course supported the resolution as normal.)

Obama had instructed the U.S. UN ambassador to abstain from the vote, so it passed. This was a highly significant decision, signaling that the era of automatic ass-kissing was over. Netanyahu had been arrogantly confrontational towards Obama, even visiting Congress to give a speech demanding that the U.S. reject the Iran nuclear deal now backed (for the time being) by the U.S., Russia, China, U.K., France and Germany.

Surely Kushner, disappointed by the immanent embarrassment of his other country, fantasized the Russia might provide the veto that Washington declined to do. So he had Flynn work on the problem.

The Mueller investigation, seeking evidence for Russian influence on the U.S. election and“collusion” between Trump campaign officials and “the Russians”(for which, let us remind ourselves, no substantial evidence yet exists) has found through interrogating the now cooperative Flynn evidence that Flynn reached out to Russia during the transition period to restrain its response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats in December, no doubt indicating that Trump would re-admit them once in office.

Under initial FBI questioning, Flynn lied about these two instances of Trump camp contacts with Russia. He has pled guilty to these charges in a plea bargain and will now no doubt spill the beans on poor Jared. (I doubt he feels much loyalty to the kid.) This will no doubt lead to questioning at the very top.

It was one thing for Flynn (and Trump) to defy the policy of the existing administration to expel the Russian diplomats, whether or not that move was justified (and I personally think it was not). It was another thing to try to protect Israel from a resolution the U.S. implicitly supported by contacting Moscow and asking it to provide the veto always hitherto provided by Washington.

Kushner will be asked: Haven’t you maybe violated the Logan Act, that criminalizes negotiations by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having disputes with the United States? Anyway, why did you lie about your efforts to cooperate with a foreign power to protect another power, in opposition to U.S. policy?

Flynn the stool pigeon may be providing incriminating information on Kushner, just as he begins his hoped-for career as the whiz kid who saved the Middle East by such measures as decertifying the Iran accord and recognizing undivided Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

Trump has announced the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in six months. Will Jared be there for the ceremony, or under house arrest like Paul Manafort?

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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