President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner received public praise on Sunday from a billionaire Israel lobby financier for his possibly illegal attempts to derail a UN Security Council vote condemning Israel’s settlements a year ago.
This came as news broke that Kushner failed to disclose in government ethics filings his role as director of a family foundation that funded Israeli settlements.
Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, is in charge of efforts to revive the so-called peace process.
New details of Kushner’s Saudi-backed plan reported Sunday confirm that it would require nothing less than a complete capitulation by the Palestinians to Israel’s demands, leaving them with a state in name only.
On Sunday, Kushner appeared at the Saban Forum, an Israel lobby conference at Washington’s Brookings Institution, financed by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban.
Saban and Kushner sat on stage for what was billed as a “keynote conversation.”
“You’ve been in the news the last few days, to say the least. But you’ve been in the news about an issue that I personally want to thank you for, because you and your team were taking steps to try and get the United Nations Security Council to not go along with what ended up being an abstention by the US,” Saban said in the exchange in the video at the top of this article.
“As far as I know there was nothing illegal there but I think that this crowd and myself want to thank you for making that effort.”
“Thank you,” Kushner responded.
Kushner refused to be drawn on whether Trump would announce on Wednesday that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that would underscore the absurdity of the US posing as an honest broker.
Saban and Kushner were on opposite sides of the 2016 US presidential election; Saban has donated millions of dollars to the Clintons, including Hillary Clinton’s failed presidental bid. He also made huge donations to support President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
But his coziness with Kushner can be explained by Saban’s own admission that his real political agenda is extremely narrow. “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel,” Saban told The New York Times in 2004.
Reports in several outlets, including BuzzFeed, have named Kushner as the “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team referred to in charging documents filed in federal court on Friday.
According to the documents, the senior figure ordered Trump adviser Michael Flynn to contact all the members of the UN Security Council to try to thwart the resolution either by delaying the vote or casting a veto.
Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, on Friday entered a guilty plea for lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador, including one on 22 December last year about the UN resolution.
The guilty plea stemmed from the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.
Multiple reports have suggested that Kushner may be a target of the investigation and that he may be suspected of violating the Logan Act, a rarely enforced 1799 law that prohibits private citizens from interfering in diplomatic negotiations to the detriment of the United States.
According to The New York Times, “Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel.”
Netanyahu is a long-time friend of the Kushner family, even sleeping in their New Jersey home, displacing the teenage Jared from his bedroom to the basement.
Flynn confirmed Friday that he is now cooperating with Mueller’s probe.
Ignoring the story
But even if Kushner is never charged under the Logan Act, the revelations about the transition team’s activities reshape the dominant narrative that Trump was colluding with Russia to advance Russian interests at American expense.
The picture that has emerged is of top Trump transition officials colluding with Israeli leaders to undermine the policy of the sitting Obama administration, for the benefit of Israel.
Yet mainstream media and pundits have continued to downplay or ignore the clear exercise of Israeli influence aimed at sabotaging US policy.
The revelations about Flynn’s activities do “not prove that there was collusion with the Russian government,” journalist Max Blumenthal told The Real News.
“It certainly doesn’t demonstrate that Russia was attempting to subvert American democracy,” Blumenthal said. “It does demonstrate that the Israeli government, through its point man, Jared Kushner, was engaged in collusion, was engaged in foreign meddling and subversion.”
“This for some reason is not the story, and we know why,” Blumenthal added.
Despite the efforts of Kushner and Flynn, the UN resolution passed without opposition on 23 December, after the US in a rare move declined to cast its veto.
Failure to disclose
It is common knowledge that top Trump officials Kushner and David Friedman, the US ambassador in Tel Aviv, made sizable donations to support Israel’s West Bank settlements, all of which are illegal under international law.
But Newsweek revealed on Sunday that Kushner failed to disclose in US government ethics forms his role as a director of his family’s foundation from 2006-2015, a period in which it funded Israeli settlements.
“The failure to disclose his role in the foundation – at a time when he was being tasked with serving as the president’s Middle East peace envoy – follows a pattern of egregious omissions that would bar any other official from continuing to serve in the West Wing,” Newsweek reported, citing experts and government officials.
The Kushner foundation donated at least $58,000 for construction and other purposes in settlements between 2011 and 2013.
“Had Kushner included the role in his financial records, his involvement in such donations – and the following conflicts of interest that could possibly arise in his government position – may have been considered by the Office of Government Ethics,” according to Newsweek.
Given the systematic lack of accountability for senior US officials, dating back decades, there is little reason to expect that anything short of an indictment will remove Kushner from his role.
And the more that is known about the “peace plan” he is helping forge, the clearer it is that Kushner and his colleagues are simply mouthpieces for Netanyahu.
On Sunday, The New York Times characterized the as yet unpublished plan in the following terms: “The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.”
These ideas are so far below what any Palestinian could ever accept that even Abbas was “alarmed and visibly upset” by the Saudi proposal, according to an official from his Fatah party cited by the Times.
The White House has denied that its plan has been finalized, and Saudi Arabia denied it supported such positions, according to the Times.
But the newspaper provides ample reason to doubt those denials, noting that: “the main points of the Saudi proposal as told to Mr. Abbas were confirmed by many people briefed on the discussions between Mr. Abbas and Prince Mohammad, including Mr. [Ahmad] Yousef, the senior Hamas leader; Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Parliament; several Western officials; a senior Fatah official; a Palestinian official in Lebanon; a senior Lebanese official; and a Lebanese politician, among others.”
The Saudis have been pressuring the Palestinians to capitulate to Israel evidently to clear the Palestinian cause out of the way so that the growing Saudi-Israeli alliance aimed at Iran can be brought fully into the open.
One element of the plan reportedly includes giving Palestinians a capital in the village of Abu Dis, instead of Jerusalem.
This is a revival of a 1990s fantasy in which the small village would be renamed “al-Quds” and declared the “capital of Palestine,” while the real city of Jerusalem is swallowed up by Israel.
Israel currently uses part of Abu Dis as an illegal garbage dump.