UAE deal raises questions about manipulation of Jared Kushner by Israel

September 5, 2020 - 23:8

TEHRAN – Jared Kushner, the U.S. president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who was a target of manipulation for many countries, is a “plaything” serving Israeli interests in a way that would destabilize the region, according to a former Iranian diplomat.

Over the past few years, Kushner has been busy brokering normalization deals between Israel and a number of Arab countries including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. After years of private talks, he is now engaged in intense shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Arab states. His ultimate goal is to find Arab partners for Israel and thus break its historic isolation in the region.
On August 31, the president’s son-in-law led, with great fanfare, an American-Israeli delegation traveling to the UAE from Israel on the first direct flight operated by the Israeli airline El Al. The flight, touted as a “peace” initiative, was hailed as the first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE, although reports in Israeli media suggested that it wasn’t the first flight. According to the Israeli news website, Ynet News, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, secretly visited the UAE in 2018, where he met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on August 13 that he had brokered a deal between the UAE and Israel that would lead to full normalization of relations between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, a move that was hailed by Kushner as a “giant step forward.”

Under the deal, officially known as the Abraham Accords, Israel and the UAE “have committed to the exchange of embassies and ambassadors, and to begin cooperation in a broad range of fields including education, healthcare, trade, and security,” according to a White House statement issued on August 13.

The deal once again revived debate over whether Kushner is being manipulated by Israel and the UAE given the past efforts by Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi to exploit Kushner’s “naivety and inexperience”.

According to a 2018 Washington Post report, the UAE, Israel, China, and Mexico “privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner” to their advantage.

Citing U.S. officials, the Washington Post wrote, “Kushner’s contacts with certain foreign government officials have raised concerns inside the White House and are a reason he has been unable to obtain a permanent security clearance.”

“Within the White House, Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him,” the Washington Post added.

The AP also reported that special counsel Robert Mueller investigated Kushner’s foreign contacts. A former U.S. official told the AP that Kushner’s contacts with foreign officials have been a part of Mueller’s investigation. During its interviews for what came to be known as the Russia probe, Muller’s team has asked people about the protocols Kushner used when he held conversations with foreign leaders.

Kushner is widely known to have a close relationship with many leaders in the region, especially Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman who made use of his rapport with the president’s son-in-law to mitigate the U.S. response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Joshua, the younger brother of Jared, also quietly managed to build a business relationship with Saudi Arabia. According to a New York Times report, Joshua traveled to Saudi Arabia in October 2017 to discuss possible business deals with the Saudis in the technology sector, three days before his older brother Jared paid a visit to Saudi Arabia. He is the founder and managing partner of the investment firm Thrive Capital. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Jared attended an economic conference in the kingdom, during which Mohammad bin Salman declared that the country was going to invest billions of dollars in technological projects.

A spokesman for the firm said at the time that Joshua’s trip to Saudi Arabia wasn’t aimed at making investments. However, a year after the founder visited Saudi Arabia, the firm earned one billion dollar worth of investments, which raised some concerns over a possible conflict between Jared’s private and public interests, as he transferred parts of his investments to Thrive Capital, which is managed by his younger brother, Joshua.

Joshua is also a co-founder of Oscar Health, a firm founded in 2012 to provide health services. The New York Times reported that Joshua has been fervently talking to the Saudis about Oscar Health. The firm received $165 million in financing five months after the co-founder’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

This maybe was the reason why U.S. officials voiced concerns over possible manipulation of Jared Kushner by Israel and some Arab countries as he was tasked with devising a plan for “peace” in the region.

Analysts and former diplomats believe that Kushner could have been manipulated by the Israelis to pursue foreign policy goals that could set the region on fire.

“Kushner’s measures would touch off violence in Palestine sooner or later, because he is driving the Palestinians to despair,” Nosratollah Tajik, the former Iranian ambassador to Jordan, told the Tehran Times. He said the president’s son-in-law took measures that further incited the public opinion in the region against Israel.

“Kushner is a plaything that seeks to accomplish Zionist goals in the region but he will fail,” Tajik added.

According to the former ambassador, Kushner’s push for the normalization of ties between Israel and Arab states as well as Israeli policies toward the Palestinian territories, especially the Israeli plan to annex large swaths of the West Bank, could create a sense of frustration among the Palestinians and push them into violently resisting Israel’s expansionism. Tajik also alluded to the recent meeting between various Palestinian groups in Beirut, saying the meeting was a step toward creating unity among the Palestinian.

The former diplomat touched on Mohammad bin Zayed’s ambitious goals in strengthening the bond among the UAE, Kushner, and Israel, saying that the MBZ seeks to become the president of the UAE by dominating other emirates constituting the UAE.

The possible manipulation of Kushner by Israel doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of making efforts to achieve unjust peace between Israel and Palestine. Kushner seems to be dedicated to moving forward with his plan to further alienate the Palestinians with the efforts to make a just, genuine peace. He clearly says that he, “as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors”, is very happy to serve Israel’s interests while chipping away at the Palestinians’ hope for achieving statehood.

“To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” Kushner said during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brian in Jerusalem last week. He was referring to the UAE-Israel normalization deal.

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