Kush­ner tasked with forg­ing peace deal with Mideast lead­ers

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International - By Gar­diner Har­ris

WASHINGTON — Jared Kush­ner, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s son-in-law and se­nior ad­viser, will soon travel to the Mid­dle East for yet an­other foray into try­ing to forge a peace deal be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, one of the most dif­fi­cult diplo­matic as­sign­ments of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr. Kush­ner, who trav­eled to the re­gion in June, will be ac­com­pa­nied on the trip by Ja­son Green­blatt, a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions, and Dina Pow­ell, a deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. No date was an­nounced.

The three will hold meet­ings with lead­ers from Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Qatar, Jor­dan, Egypt, Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, ac­cord­ing to a White House of­fi­cial. The dis­cus­sions will fo­cus on re­solv­ing the im­ped­i­ments to peace ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, but will also cover com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial.

That topic could take Mr. Kush­ner even deeper into ter­ri­tory gen­er­ally re­served for Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son. A bit­ter feud be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar over how to com­bat ex­trem­ism has split the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, putting a host of U.S. pri­or­i­ties in the re­gion at risk. Mr. Tiller­son spent hours on the phone and days on the ground in the Mid­dle East re­cently in an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to re­solve the stand­off, which led Saudi Ara­bia and three other Arab states to slap an em­bargo on Qatar.

Mr. Tiller­son’s ef­forts were re­peat­edly un­der­mined by Mr. Trump, who largely sided with the Saudis. A frus­trated Mr. Tiller­son said he had set aside the mat­ter, but Mr. Kush­ner’s wad­ing into the is­sue could cause ten­sions in an ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ready rived by in­ter­nal dis­putes.

In most ad­min­is­tra­tions, cru­cial diplo­matic ef­forts are given to the sec­re­tary of state, but Mr. Trump gave the task of forg­ing a Mid­dle East peace deal to Mr. Kush­ner, who is also ex­pected to fo­cus on the on­go­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Gaza.

By talk­ing to mul­ti­ple play­ers in the re­gion, Mr. Kush­ner may be hop­ing to re­cruit Arab coun­tries to of­fer out­lines of a deal that would be dif­fi­cult for ei­ther the Is­raelis or Pales­tini­ans to re­ject, known as the “out­side-in” ap­proach.

Mr. Kush­ner was crit­i­cized when he said in a talk given to in­terns, which was later leaked, that he did not want to fo­cus on the re­gion’s com­plex his­tory. “We don’t want a his­tory les­son,” Mr. Kush­ner said. “We’ve read enough­books.”

Many in the re­gion see their his­tory as cru­cial to the dis­pute as well as any res­o­lu­tion, so crit­ics saw the re­marks as a sign of in­ex­pe­ri­ence.

Among the chal­lenges Mr. Kush­ner could con­front on the trip are the myr­iad le­gal prob­lems fac­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael, which have be­gun to threaten his po­lit­i­cal stand­ing.

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