In a conversation with Congressional aides on Monday, which was supposed to be off-the-record but was recorded and leaked to the website Wired, President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, expressed hesitancy at the United States' ability to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians while embracing Israel's positions on the latest crisis surrounding the Temple Mount.
Kushner called Israel's decision to put metal detectors on Temple Mount "reasonable," blamed the Palestinians for incitement, and described the incident in which two Jordanian citizens were killed by an Israeli security guard in the Israeli embassy in Amman, in a way that completely contradicts Jordan's official account of the event, which is currently under investigation by the Israeli police.
Kushner spoke at length about the administration's attempts to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, sharing some of his thoughts on this issue after half a year of diplomatic engagement with both sides. According to the transcript published by Wired, Kushner said:
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"Working through, in this past week, it really showed us how quickly things can ignite in our history, and you have some people who don’t want to see and achieve an outcome of peace. And other people sometimes thrive in the chaos, and they thrive and that's not new to politics and its not new to that conflict. It's just the way it is."
Kushner described how the events unfolded following a terror attack on Temple Mount which led to the death of two Israeli police officers (he used the word "guards") and expressed his opinion that Israel's response to that event - putting up metal detectors in the entrances to Temple Mount - was a reasonable thing to do.
"So as tensions were really mounting, 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. 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."
Kushner then described how the administration worked with Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan to solve the situation. In doing so, he described the event which took place at the Israeli embassy in Amman last week, during which to Jordanian citizens were killed and one Israeli security guard was injured, in a way that sounds very different than the Jordanian version of the event, which is currently being investigated by the Israeli police. Here is how Kushner talked about it:
"And then ultimately they said, 'Okay, we took down the metal detectors but there's still a bridge up somewhere.' And they said, 'Okay, 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."
Kushner then summed up his lecture by saying: "My point is that these things are very, very combustible, and very, very delicate in terms of how you can do, but I think the fact that all these conversations were all done in quiet and nothing leaked out [unintelligible]. But I think we were able to keep things quiet. But I mean, any day something could happen.
"So, what do we offer that's unique? I don’t know I’m sure everyone that’s tried this has been unique in some ways, but again we’re trying to follow very logically. We're thinking about what the right end state is. And we’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there's a solution. 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."
Jordanian government sources told Haaretz that Mr. Kushner is greatly respected and is highly regarded in Jordan. "We appreciate all what he has done and we hope he will get the Israeli government to engage in serious negotiations through which the conflict will end."
In recent days the Palestinian Authority has criticized the Trump peace effort for being one-sided and tilted towards Israel. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, slammed the Trump administration on Tuesday. Kushner's leaked lecture probably won't help in that regard. For example, Kushner mentions in the leaked transcript the five Israelis - two police officers on Temple Mount and a civilian family in the settlement of Halamish - who were killed in terror attacks during the violent outbreak, but doesn't refer at all to Palestinian casualties.