Document of the Week: Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peace Email
“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are, our goal had to be to make things significantly BETTER!”
Each week, Foreign Policy will publish a document—a White House email, a diplomatic cable, or perhaps a poignant think tank study—that will shed light on key foreign-policy trends of the day. We will place a premium on publishing confidential leaks, but we will also hunt for overlooked reports, investigations, or declassified documents drawn from the archives.
This week, in anticipation of the final delivery of Jared Kushner’s long-awaited Middle East peace proposal, which is expected shortly after newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a government, FP gives you a look at a confidential email that U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law sent a year and a half ago. In the email, Kushner delivers a preview of his ideas about peace, suggesting that it means removing rights assistance for the Palestinians.
Jan. 11, 2018: The Kushner Email
“Our goal can’t be to keep things stable and as they are, our goal had to be to make things significantly BETTER! Sometimes you have to strategically risk breaking things in order to get there.”
In early 2018, Kushner was trying to rally support within the Trump administration for a policy of defunding a major $1.25 billion U.N. program that provides schooling and relief to more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. The fate of the region’s Palestinians had been a major sticking point in decades of Middle East peace efforts, and Kushner was hoping to take it off the table by stripping Palestinians of their refugee status.
To bolster his case, he fired off this email at 7:50 a.m. on Jan. 11 to the administration’s top brass, linking to a Wall Street Journal op-ed that advocated eliminating the Palestinian refugee problem by getting rid of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which serves them, and persuading the Palestinian Authority to take charge of its population and neighboring states to absorb the Palestinians into their territory. He seemed particularly interested in getting the op-ed in front of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had been skeptical of the wisdom of yanking hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance in such a volatile part of the Middle East.
“It’s very important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote. “This perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
The email—which has never before been published in its entirety—provides perhaps the most candid public account of the secretive Middle East envoy’s views on one of the most sensitive issues—the right of return—dividing Israelis and Palestinians. It shows Kushner coming straight down on the side of Israel.
The missive also reinforces the transactional nature of Trump’s inner circle and its reliance on political payback. Frustrated that U.N. member states, including close U.S. allies, voted in the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Security Council to censure the United States for unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Kushner proposes they be made to cover the costs of covering hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the U.N. refugee program. But don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself.
“POTUS and Ambassador [Nikki] Haley said it would be a new day at the UN and we were taking names. We have big asks of them such as Human Rights reform and perhaps some UNWRA reform that we can get in exchange for our aid dollars if we ultimately give them.”
Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch