WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan once included a massive land swap proposal in which the Palestinians would get Jordanian land and Jordan would get Saudi Arabian land, according to a new book by an investigative journalist released Tuesday.
In an explosive chapter detailing US President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip — in which he visited Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — British-born author Vicky Ward wrote that Saudi Arabia was meant to play a critical role in Kushner’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, including through relinquishing its own territory and helping to revive Gaza.
“Saudi Arabia was… the key to Kushner’s burgeoning Middle East peace plan,” the book says. “What Kushner wanted, according to multiple people who saw drafts of the plan, was for the Saudis and Emiratis to provide economic assistance to the Palestinians. There were plans for an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia to Gaza, where refineries and a shipping terminal could be built. The profits would create desalination plants, where Palestinians could find work, addressing the high unemployment rate.
“The plan also entailed land swaps, so that Jordan would give land to the Palestinian territories. In return, Jordan would get land from Saudi Arabia, and that country would get back two Red Sea islands it gave Egypt to administer in 1950.”
The book did not say whether the land swap scheme is still in the peace plan, which the administration says will not be rolled out until sometime after the Israeli election on April 9, but the president’s special envoy for Mideast peace Jason Greenblatt tweeted that “no one who has seen the plan would spread misinformation like that. Whoever made these claims has bad info.”
After Trump became president, he tasked Kushner and Greenblatt with leading the diplomatic efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
The revelation is contained in the book, “Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump,” which was published Tuesday and challenges the view that the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Kushner are moderating influences in Trump’s orbit.
In reality, Ward asserts, they’ve been fueling the chaos for which the White House has become notorious.
They’ve made fierce enemies with other White House officials, such as former adviser Steve Bannon, former economic adviser Gary Cohn and former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the book says, adding that Kushner urged Trump to fire the ex-head of the FBI James Comey, a step that stunned Washington and ultimately led to the Robert Mueller investigation.
While Kushner is widely regarded as influential across a range of issues in the Trump White House, “Kushner, Inc.” chronicles his involvement with the Israel portfolio going back to the campaign, when he helped draft then-candidate Trump’s speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference.
“Trump turned to him for help with his March 2016 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” the book says. It then claims that “Kushner got help from Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.”
Kushner’s family’s relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made him a useful conduit between the campaign and Jerusalem, Ward asserts.
She writes that Trump was initially “reluctant” to meet with the Israeli premier. “He and Bibi had a history,” Bannon told Ward, using the prime minister’s nickname. “Two alpha males. Trump had thought Bibi didn’t treat him with respect.”
The two ended up meeting in the fall of 2016, when Netanyahu came to New York for the UN General Assembly and he met with both Trump and his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Netanyahu, Dermer, Trump, Bannon and Kushner were all present at the meeting, which Trump later thought went swimmingly.
“The meeting in September was considered an extraordinary success — at least by Trump,” Ward writes. “Netanyahu and Trump each sat on a chair that looked like a throne. Netanyahu spoke for two hours and gave what Bannon called ‘a Middle East master class.’”
Netanyahu reportedly said that American presidents since the 1950s had operated under the “central tenet” that they needed to keep Russia out of the region. He then blamed former president Barack Obama for reversing course. “Obama had essentially allowed Russia to come in [to Syria] and get quasi-permanent status and they weren’t going to leave, and they would have to be dealt with,” Bannon told Ward of the meeting. “He and Trump really got along, big-time.”
Ward quotes an anonymous source who was at the meeting as saying that Trump allowed Kushner to speak freely, as he believed Israel was one of the few issues on which the young man had substantive knowledge.
“In that conversation, Trump let Kushner jump in, because US-Israel relations was the one political issue anyone in the campaign ever saw Kushner get worked up about,” Ward writes, later quoting her source as saying, “On the Israel stuff, Jared at least comes across like he knows what he’s talking about.”