White House special adviser Jared Kushner increased his financial links with Israeli companies over the past year, according to a Bloomberg report Wednesday, leading an ethics group to question whether he can be viewed as an impartial broker in future peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Kushner’s most recent financial disclosure shows that a line of credit with Israel Discount Bank he holds jointly with his father jumped from below $5 million in late 2017 to as high as $25 million by May 2018.
Kushner’s filing also showed an income of over $5 million on Quail Ridge Apartments, a property he purchased in November with financing from Psagot Investment House, Israel’s largest asset manager, as well as at least one other, unnamed partner.
Washington watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has in the past filed ethics complaints against Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump. The group questioned whether he would be viewed as an honest broker in any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal given his increased financial connection to Israeli companies since taking on the role of negotiator.
“For somebody who is responsible for brokering Middle East peace, in any other administration he would have been required to divest these assets from the get-go,” Virginia Canter, a lawyer with the nonprofit organization, told Bloomberg. “It would make it hard for other parties involved in Middle East negotiations to view him as an impartial broker.”
Bloomberg reported that representatives for Kushner Companies and for Kushner’s lawyer “declined to comment on the Quail Ridge deal and the credit line with Israel Discount Bank.”
Kushner will reportedly travel to Israel and other Middle East countries next week along with US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt for talks with regional leaders on when to present a Trump administration peace plan, as well as to seek ideas on resolving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The tour comes amid a nadir in relations between the United States and the Palestinians, with the Palestinian Authority refusing to speak to Washington over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent relocation of the US embassy to the city last month.
The White House confirmed Wednesday that Kushner and Greenblatt will visit Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other unspecified countries to discuss the Trump peace plan.
The financial disclosure filing shows that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, became at least $82 million richer from outside income while working for the White House during 2017.
Both Trump and Kushner gave up daily oversight of their companies when they started working as unpaid senior advisers to the president, The Washington Post reported Monday, noting that the large amounts of income the couple is collecting from outside enterprises while working for the White House could create potential conflicts of interest.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s and Trump’s ethics counsel, said in a statement to the Post that Kushner and Ivanka Trump have followed all ethics rules and that the disclosure forms make it difficult to understand their net worth.
“Since joining the administration, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have complied with the rules and restrictions as set out by the Office of Government Ethics,” Mirijanian said. He also said that the couple’s net worth “remains largely the same, with changes reflecting more the way the form requires disclosure than any substantial difference in assets or liabilities.”
JTA contributed to this report.