In a closed session with Congressional interns on Monday, White House senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner shared some basic information on strategies he and others are using to deal with the challenges they face in trying to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Prior to his conversation with the interns, the deputy staff director for Member Services, Outreach & Communications, Katie Patru issued a standard warning:
“To record today’s session would be such a breach of trust, from my opinion. This town is full of leakers, and everyone knows who they are, and no one trusts them. In this business your reputation is everything. I’ve been on the Hill for 15 years. I’ve sat in countless meetings with members of Congress where important decisions were being made. During all those years in all those meetings, I never once leaked to a reporter … If someone in your office has asked you to break our protocol and give you a recording so they can leak it, as a manager, that bothers me at my core.”
What if a reporter directly made the request? That she didn’t say, but she shouldn’t have had to. Nevertheless, someone obviously did record the entire talk, which lasted nearly an hour. And they gave it to WIRED, which published the transcript of Kushner’s response to a question on how the Trump administration plans to help Israel and the Palestinian Authority reach a final status deal.
Ironically, one of Kushner’s first comments in that response was: “So if you’ve noticed about this conflict, and [unintelligible] nothing’s leaked out. So nothing has leaked out which I think gives the parties more trust, and more ability to really express and share their viewpoints.”
Monday’s published transcript, has undoubtedly, if anything, probably taught Kushner that one cannot trust Congressional interns or aides. By extension, both sides of the conflict have also probably learned the same lesson — if they didn’t know it already.
Kushner also spoke about the Temple Mount crisis:
“I don’t know if everyone is familiar, but there were two people—two Israeli guards killed at the Temple Mount (and that’s the first time in many, many, many years that that happened, so Israelis [unintelligible] putting up metal detectors on the Temple Mount, which is not an irrational thing to do. You know when you have—police officers were just killed, and weapons that were used to [unintelligible] the weapons to check them—so then what happens is they start inciting it.
“They say look, you know, this is a change to the status quo. The Temple Mount is a [unintelligible] occupation of Israel, and Israel was saying we don’t want anything to do with that, we just want to make sure people are safe. And that really incited a lot of tension in the streets.
“So we’re going to work with them [unintelligible] to take down the metal detectors there, and then I think one of the Palestinians’ religious leaders was saying, “If you go through the metal detectors, then your prayers don’t count.” And that is not a very helpful thing to have said. And then there was a lot of rage. And there was an Israeli family that three people killed in their home, which was absolutely terrible. You know, so, “I’m going to do this to free the Temple Mount.” So ultimately we were able to work with them, and we were able to get the Israelis to take down to the different forms of surveillance that the Jordanians were OK with, and we talked with the Palestinians the whole time to try to get their viewpoint on it.
“And then ultimately they said, “OK, we took down the metal detectors but there’s still a bridge up somewhere.” And they said, “OK, we’ll take that down, too.” And so Bibi was getting beaten up by the press in Israel, because that was very politically unpopular for him to do. At the same time we got a situation in Jordan where an Israeli security diplomat in Jordan was attacked by two Jordanian men, and in self-defense he killed the attackers. So then it worked out where the Jordanians got the Israelis to accept their people from the embassy back to Israel.”
At the bottom line, said Kushner, “any day something could happen.”
But the Trump team is trying to work with the parties “very quietly” to see if there is a solution, he said. “And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future,” he said.