By Ashley Feinberg,
ON MONDAY, WHITE House senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke to a group of congressional interns as part of an ongoing, off-the-record summer lecture series. During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Kushner may have inadvertently offered some insight into the negotiating tactics he is using in the Middle East.
Prior to Kushner’s talk, Katie Patru, the deputy staff director for member services, outreach, and communications, told the assembled interns, “To record today’s session would be such a breach of trust, from my opinion. This town is full of leakers, and everyone knows who they are, and no one trusts them. In this business your reputation is everything. I’ve been on the Hill for 15 years. I’ve sat in countless meetings with members of congress where important decisions were being made. During all those years in all those meetings, I never once leaked to a reporter … If someone in your office has asked you to break our protocol and give you a recording so they can leak it, as a manager, that bothers me at my core.”
WIRED has obtained a recording of Kushner’s talk, which lasted for just under an hour in total. You can listen to the full version here.
The speech—which was peppered with self-deprecating jokes, as reported by Foreign Policy—offered a rare insight into the man President Trump has tasked with criminal justice reform, managing the opioid crisis, updating the government’s technological systems, and creating peace in the Middle East, among other tasks. It’s the latter, though, that’s both the most deeply personal for Kushner (a staunch supporter of Israel) and that prompted him to embark on his longest, most rambling answer during yesterday’s question-and-answer session.
While the recording doesn’t catch the entirety of the question, it appears to have centered on how Kushner plans to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as why he believes he’ll be successful where every other administration has failed. He doesn’t directly answer either question, but he does reveal that, in his extensive research, he’s learned that “not a whole lot has been accomplished over the last 40 or 50 years.” He also notes that he’s spoken to “a lot of people,” which has taught him that “this is a very emotionally charged situation.”
Later in the clip, Kushner expresses frustration at others’ attempts to teach him about the delicate situation he’s been inserted into, saying, “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? Let’s not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on, How do you come up with a conclusion to the situation?” He then goes on to lament the press’s treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a family friend who he’s known since childhood.
Kushner’s dismissal of the nuances of the conflict has already been an issue. Last month, when Kushner met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Palestinian official told Haaretz that Kushner “sounded like Netanyahu’s advisers and not like fair arbiters” and that they were “greatly disappointed” after the meeting. Abbas himself was “reportedly furious.”
Finally, Kushner closed with the following statement of reassurance: “So, what do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know … I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. 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.”
You can read and listen to Kushner’s answer in its entirety on WIRED: