As a member of a prominent American Jewish family, it is no surprise that U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner won’t be meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time when the Israeli leader arrives in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
But an exhaustive profile of the Kushner-Netanyahu connection in Sunday’s New York Times reveals new details of the extent and depth of the acquaintance between the two men, who will sit in the Oval Office on February 15 to discuss peace in the Middle East.
It turns out that Netanyahu spent the night in Kushner’s bed when he was a guest in the Kushner home on a trip to the United States before becoming prime minister. Jared, a teenager at the time, bunked in the basement for the night. The profile also recalled how, later, at age 17, Kushner listened to Netanyahu’s address the “March of the Living” at the Auschwitz-Birkenau crematorium in 1998, during his first stint as prime minister.
The sleepover wasn’t the only time Netanyahu paid his respects to the Kushner clan. The article detailed a visit in which he “shared a tabbouleh lunch,” visited Jared Kushner’s father Charles at his office and played soccer at one of the Jewish day schools bearing the Kushner family name with Joshua Kushner, Jared’s younger brother.
Over the course of the campaign and through the transition, the woes of Charles Kushner were extensively reported – the feud between Kushner and his extended family regarding misuse of family company funds that led him to commit tax fraud, illegal contributions and suborning a witness. This landed him a two-year prison sentence, of which he served 14 months. What was less widely known, the Times revealed, was that when Murray Kushner, Charles’ brother, filed a suit against him, part of the misuse of funds included paying hundreds of thousands of speaking fees to Netanyahu.
More evidence of a close Kushner-Netanyahu connection is the fact that Charles Kushner was placed highly on a leaked list of billionaires and millionaires – both Israelis and foreigners – Netanyahu compiled as potential donors in 2007. The names were organized into four categories as to who was most likely to contribute. Kushner was high on the list alongside names like Sheldon Adelson and Ron Lauder. Donald Trump also appeared on the list, but he, unlike Kushner, was ranked in the fourth category – the least likely to give.
The profile scrutinized Jared’s deep “personal and religious” ties with Israel, his education at day schools where “the West Bank was often referred to by its biblical names, Judea and Samaria, a practice that emphasizes Jewish claims to the land” and his family’s donations to West Bank settlements. It contrasts his connection with Israel and Netanyahu with the fact that he has little familiarity with the wider Arab world and there is no evidence as to whether he has spent any time in Palestinian towns or cities. This has led to skepticism over his knowledge and impartiality as he tries to “craft a strategy to recruit Sunni Muslim countries that oppose Iran to help foster an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.”
Palestinian leader Mustafa Bargouhti told the Times that "there is no indication" that Kushner "is interested in hearing from the other side."
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