WASHINGTON – At some point, you just have to move on.
That is Jared Kushner’s message to Israelis and Palestinians in his effort to end their storied conflict, six months into his unlikely role as diplomat.
Kushner – US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law turned senior adviser – is past the listening phase of this process, having studied up on the region’s history and American efforts to bring about peace. He believes he has heard everyone out. And now he is apparently done braving lectures from both sides on the trials they have endured.
“How does that help us get peace?” Kushner asked himself, speaking before a group of interns in an off-the-record chat in Washington on Monday. One of those interns leaked a recording of the event to the press.
“Let’s not focus on that,” he continued. “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on how do you come up with a conclusion to the situation.”
It’s an admission that both Israelis and Palestinians have fair arguments and cohesive narratives within which they can find comfort and recuse themselves from compromise – a statement that neither side is going to end hostilities by proving the other side wrong. “At some point, it’s just one of those things where you kind of have to just pick and choose where you draw conclusions,” he said.
After months of research in preparation for this role, Kushner seems to have concluded that an understanding of history is not key to achieving peace, but rather an impediment to it. Reaching the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians will require an end of history between them as they know it – and as they know themselves.
Yet Kushner just witnessed history revived as a crisis gripped ground zero of the conflict: The Temple Mount. Two weeks of shootings, riots, stabbings and diplomatic maneuvers displayed for Kushner the circular nature of this struggle. “The variables haven’t been changed much,” he acknowledged to the group. “Any day something could happen.”
Kushner may be confounded by Israeli-Palestinian history, but the events of July may have shown him this history is inescapable. Conflicts and decisions of the past are present, with us today, largely unchanged. The history of the region is not history at all.
So how will Kushner help the parties move on?
“There may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on,” Kushner said. “So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”