US President-elect Donald Trump has confirmed that he intends to use his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner to try to broker an elusive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking to The Times of London and Germany’s Bild just days before his inauguration, Trump “confirmed that he would appoint Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, to broker a Middle East peace deal,” the Times said.
Asked by Bild precisely what role Kushner would play, he replied: “You know what? Jared is such a good lad, he will secure an Israel deal which no one else has managed to get. You know, he’s a natural talent, he is the top, he is a natural talent. You know what I’m talking about – a natural talent. He has an innate ability to make deals, everyone likes him.” Trump said his daughter Ivanka, Kushner’s wife, would play no role in government.
Trump also urged the United Kingdom to veto any new UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel, said the US abstention on December 23’s Resolution 2334 was terrible, and that he wished the UK had vetoed it. “I would hope for a British veto (on any fresh resolution in the next few days). I think it would be great if Great Britain would place a veto, because I’m not sure if the US would do so – extraordinarily enough,” Trump told Bild, according to a Guardian translation. “They won’t do it, right? Do you believe the US will place a veto? I have Jewish friends who organised a donor event for Obama. I say to them: ‘What on earth are you doing? Okay – what are you doing?’”
Asked about whether he intended to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he replied: “I’m not going to comment on that. But we’ll see.”
Trump also repeated his criticism of President Barack Obama’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal, The Times said. “I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen . . . Where you give . . . $150bn back to a country, where you give $1.7bn in cash. Did you ever see $100m in hundred-dollar bills? It’s a lot. $1.7bn in cash. Plane loads.”
His comments came days after Trump named Kushner as a senior adviser in the upcoming administration, apparently skirting anti-nepotism regulations.
“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” Trump said at the time, calling him “instrumental in formulating and executing the strategy” behind his election victory.
It’s not the first time Trump has indicated that he sees Kushner playing a key role in any future Mideast diplomacy, saying he would be “very good at it.”
“I mean he knows it so well. He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players,” Trump said in a previous interview.
The Bild and London Times interviews were published the same day as 70 nations met for the Middle East peace conference in Paris, which called for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Trump has already indicated that he could consider different approaches, including breaking with longstanding US policy and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a plan the Palestinians have stridently protested.
Trump’s call on Britain to veto any anti-Israel resolutions comes after the UK was instrumental in drafting last month’s Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements. President Obama did not use the US veto.
The Times of Israel reported last week that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu neglected to call his British counterpart Theresa May ahead of the December 23 UNSC vote, and that she might have vetoed Resolution 2334 had he done so.
May criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry’s post-vote, anti-settlement speech. And on Sunday, the UK dramatically broke ranks with participants from 70 other countries and criticized the Middle East peace conference in Paris, arguing that it might harden Palestinian negotiating positions, and refused to sign a joint statement issued after the summit.
A Foreign Office spokesman said London had “particular reservations” about the Paris meeting taking place without Israeli or Palestinian representatives, especially since a new US administration is being sworn in later this week.