U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, currently investigating contacts between the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump and foreign governments, has started to shine a spotlight on the communications between Jared Kushner and Israel.
Kushner, married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and a senior presidential adviser, has been tasked with getting the moribund Israel- Palestinian Authority peace process back on track; he also has been under Mueller’s microscope for some time.
More than a year ago, during the transition to the White House, Kushner served as a senior foreign policy adviser to the president. At that time, Israeli officials were desperate to stop then-President Barack Obama from going through with his intention to allow a United Nations Security Council resolution on Jerusalem to pass without a veto. In fact, Obama was actively working behind the scenes to push the resolution through, Israeli officials discovered.
Kushner was the point of contact with the transition team for Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
None of this was new when the Israeli ambassador told Politico’s Susan Glasser in December 2016, “obviously we reached out [to the transition team of then-President-elect Donald Trump] in the hope that they would help us…
“We were hopeful that they would speak” on behalf of Israel to other governments represented at the United Nations Security Council “in order to prevent this vote from happening.”
Technically, Kushner and the rest of the transition team members were still private citizens. But White House protocol generally encourages those on the presidential transition teams to engage with foreign officials in preparation for assuming their duties in the days ahead.
The Obama administration, in its final days, was taking what for the United States was an unprecedented, hostile action against Israel in allowing the damaging, vicious resolution to pass – UNSC 2334 – one that was adamantly opposed by the incoming Trump administration and by the Congress, and which has since been deeply condemned by both.
The resolution labels all Israeli construction in areas of Jerusalem restored to the capital in the 1967 Six Day War as “settlement activity” carried out in “flagrant violation of international law.”
Mueller is now focusing on Kushner’s foreign contacts and his business ties, and how those affect White House policy, according to the latest multiple U.S. media reports. On Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to meet at the White House with President Trump.
The prime minister told reporters as he boarded the plane to leave Israel with his wife Sara on Saturday night that he was “leaving on an important visit” to meet with the president and address the annual AIPAC conference. “In the conversation with the president I will thank him on behalf of the Israeli people for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, in honor of the State of Israel’s 70th Independence Day.”
Netanyahu said, however, that “first and foremost” he would discuss Iran with Trump, ahead of the decision on the nuclear program. “We will discuss Iranian aggression in our region in general and regarding the Iranian nuclear program in particular. I will also discuss with the president about advancing the peace process. Advancing these issues is important for Israel and for the security of the entire world,” he added.
“Kushner will also meet with Netanyahu, as will presidential Special Representative to International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt; both have been working intensively on putting the final touches to the Trump peace proposal for the region.