Jared Kushner’s diplomatic role complicated by his financial ties

Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at the end of a diplomatic trip to Israel in May. Shortly before, Kushner Companies received a $30 million investment from one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, Menora Mivtachim. (photo: Mandel Ngan / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)

Kushner continues to do business with major Israeli investors, and continues to donate to West Bank settlements.

By Jesse Drucker | The New York Times | Jan 7, 2018

“The ethics laws were not crafted by people who had the foresight to imagine a Donald Trump or a Jared Kushner. No one could ever imagine this scale of ongoing business interests . . . that give the president and his top adviser personal economic stakes in an astounding number of policy interests.”
— Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit government ethics group

Last May, Jared Kushner accompanied President Trump, his father-in-law, on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel, part of Mr. Kushner’s White House assignment to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, according to a Menora executive.

The deal, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Mr. Kushner’s firm. While Mr. Kushner has sold parts of his business since taking a White House job last year, he still has stakes in most of the family empire — including the apartment buildings in and around Baltimore.

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As the 2-State solution loses steam, a 1-state plan gains traction

Israeli and American flags were projected on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem last month just before President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (photo: Uriel Sinai / The New York Times)

Absorbing the nearly three million Palestinians on the West Bank would either spell the end of a Jewish state or destroy Israeli democracy if Palestinians were denied equal rights.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Jan 5, 2018

“If the two-state solution dies, it will be the responsibility of Israel, not the Palestinians. But if the Israelis kill it, which they’re in the process of doing now, unfortunately with the help of Trump’s administration, then the only option will be for us to fight the apartheid system and bring it down, which means one state with equal rights for everybody.”
— Mustafa Barghouti, a physician who sits on the P.L.O.’s central council

The Israeli right, emboldened by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is not the only faction arguing for a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has also begun to ask whether that might not be such a bad idea, though it has a radically different view of what that state would look like.

As momentum ebbs for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides are taking another look at the one-state idea. But that solution has long been problematic for both sides.

For the Israelis, absorbing three million West Bank Palestinians means either giving up on democracy or accepting the end of the Jewish state. The Palestinians, unwilling to live under apartheid-like conditions or military occupation, have also seen two states as their best hope.

Now, for the first time since it declared its support for a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel in 1988, the P.L.O. is seriously debating whether to embrace fallback options, including the pursuit of a single state.

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The full Israeli blacklist

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink, both on Israel’s newly announced BDS blacklist, demonstrate against Israeli military operations in Gaza, Washington, DC, Jul 21, 2014. (photo: Atheer Ahmed Kakan / Anadolu Age)

Here is the complete list of international NGO’s blacklisted by Israel.

US Organizations

  • American Friends Service Committee
  • American Muslims for Palestine
  • Code Pink
  • Jewish Voice for Peace
  • National Students for Justice in Palestine
  • US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

European Organizations

  • The France Association Palestine Solidarity
  • BDS France
  • BDS Italy
  • The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
  • Friends of Al-Aqsa
  • Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • The Palestine Committee of Norway
  • Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • War on Want
  • BDS Kampagne

Other Organizations

  • BDS Chile
  • BDS South Africa
  • BDS National Committee

Read the reference article here →

I’m a US Jew on Israel’s BDS blacklist, I have family in Israel, but I won’t be silenced

Rebecca Vilkomerson (right) in July 2016 with Caroline Hunter, who was part of the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. (photo: JVP)

Israel wants to intimidate the growing numbers of Jews fighting for equality and freedom for all people in Israel/Palestine. It won’t work.

By Rebecca Vilkomerson | Haaretz | Jan 7, 2018

As long as Israel continues to violate the fundamental rights of Palestinians, people will continue to speak out — Palestinians, Jews, and people of conscience the world over.

The first time I went to Israel I was four months old. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood I visited regularly: My grandparents, in Haifa; and my aunt, uncle and cousins, on a religious kibbutz near the Jordanian border. There was no place, with the exception of the town where I grew up, to which I felt more connected.

As an adult, married to an Israeli, we spent three years living in Tel Aviv with our two young daughters, who also have Israeli citizenship.

In March last year, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill that forbids entry to “foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements,” and yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that as a result 20 organizations have been placed on a blacklist that would prohibit entry specifically to its leaders. That list was published in full Sunday. Jewish Voice for Peace, the organization of which I am executive director, is one of the organizations named.

Despite the fact that my grandparents are buried there, that my aging in-laws still live there, and my extensive ties of friendship and family, my support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) for Palestinian rights now excludes me from Israel.

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Nobel Peace Prize-winning American Friends Service Committee banned from Israel

Palestinians walk past a sign on a wall in Bethlehem calling for a boycott of Israeli products from Jewish settlements. (photo: Thomas Coex / AFP / Getty Images)

Israel imposes travel ban on 20 foreign NGOs over boycott movement.

By Peter Beaumont | The Guardian | Jan 7, 2018

“This move is reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime which also prepared blacklists in order to punish people and prevent the entry of those opposed to its racist policies.”
— Hassan Jabareen, of the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

The prominent British campaign group War on Want has been listed as one of 20 foreign NGOs whose representatives are banned from visiting Israel over their support of the pro-Palestinian boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement.

The publication of the list, which also includes a well-known Jewish anti-occupation group and a Nobel peace prize-winning US Quaker group, had been threatened for months by Israel.

The organizations were singled out by Israel’s rightwing strategic affairs and public security minister, Gilad Erdan, for advocating boycotts of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

Human rights groups condemned the move as an assault on free speech. A number of individuals have been refused entry into Israel in recent months, including a prominent African theologian and official of the World Council of Churches.

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Israel blacklists 20 international organizations

The Shuafat refugee camp, behind a section of Israel’s separation barrier in Jerusalem. (photo: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Israel may also be compiling a blacklist of individuals to be barred from entry.

By David Halbfinger | The New York Times | Jan 7, 2018

“When Israel, which aims to portray itself to the world as liberal and democratic, blacklists activists dedicated to nonviolent organizing and dissent, it only further exposes itself as a fraud.”
— Yousef Munayyer, the director of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Israel on Sunday published a blacklist of 20 organizations, including a Jewish group in the United States, whose leaders it has barred from entering the country for supporting an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.

The list was drawn up under a nearly year-old law enacted to combat the so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which Israelis overwhelmingly oppose, consider anti-Semitic and view as calling for the country’s destruction.

Supporters of the pressure strategy favor the boycott of Israel until it ends the occupation of the West Bank, provides full equality under the law to Palestinian citizens of Israel and grants a right of return to Palestinian refugees. But refugees number in the millions, and their return would probably spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

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Tapes reveal Egyptian leaders’ tacit acceptance of Jerusalem move

As Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, an Egyptian intelligence officer was quietly working to persuade Egyptians to accept the decision. (photo: Shadi Hatem / European Pressphoto Agency)

Arab governments publicly condemned President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem but criticism in state-owned and pro-government media across the Arab world was muted.

By David D. Kirkpatrick | The New York Times | Jan 6, 2018

“How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?”
— Egyptian intelligence officer Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi

As President Trump moved last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an Egyptian intelligence officer quietly placed phone calls to the hosts of several influential talk shows in Egypt.

“Like all our Arab brothers,” Egypt would denounce the decision in public, the officer, Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi, told the hosts.

But strife with Israel was not in Egypt’s national interest, Captain Kholi said. He told the hosts that instead of condemning the decision, they should persuade their viewers to accept it. Palestinians, he suggested, should content themselves with the dreary West Bank town that currently houses the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.

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Why Trump’s funding threat to Palestinians is even more dangerous than his Jerusalem move

Donald Trump has demonstrated that either he does not understand the situation, or does understand but does not care. (photo: Evan Vucci / AP)

The US president is treating the Middle East peace process like a Manhattan property deal that he can bully to the table.

By Peter Beaumont | The Guardian | Jan 3, 2018

“It’s over. By tweeting that he has taken Jerusalem ‘off the table’ as an issue he has admitted that US diplomats were lying when they said Jerusalem’s status has not been decided. Instead he is trying to use blackmail and a blame game against the Palestinians. What he is admitting is there is no peace process and no peace plan.”
— Palestinian official, speaking anonymously

Donald Trump’s latest intervention in the Middle East peace process — one he has already upended by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — looks to be his most chaotic move yet.

After appointing his son-in-law Jared Kushner as regional adviser and naming the fiercely pro-settlement lawyer David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel, the US president has blundered from crisis to crisis in recent weeks.

His speech recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital breached international consensus and UN resolutions. But the latest move — a threat to cut funding to UNRWA, the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, and to the Palestinian Authority — is more dangerous still, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the delicate mechanics that help maintain relative peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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Israelis voice warnings, Palestinians talk of “blackmail” in wake of tweets by Trump

President Trump formally recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in an address from the White House on Dec 6, 2017. (photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Cutting US aid would simultaneously weaken the Palestinian Authority, jeopardize Israeli security, and reduce the ability of the US to broker the peace process.

By Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Jan 3, 2018

“Cutting aid to the Palestinians at this stage would have the opposite effect to what the Americans want. . . . The situation in Gaza is terrible. If America cuts its aid, it would be catastrophic.”
— Moshe Maoz, an Israeli professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“Traditionally, the Israeli defense establishment has resisted pressure by Israeli hawks who want to shut down UNRWA funding. They say, if it’s not UNRWA, then education will be provided by Hamas.”
— Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group

President Trump’s threat to cut aid to the Palestinians has the potential to backfire, Israeli security officials and analysts warned Wednesday, saying it could weaken a Palestinian leadership that cooperates with Israel on security matters and fuel extremism by worsening already dire humanitarian conditions.

Palestinian officials accused the United States of using bullying tactics after both Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley indicated that the administration may cut funding to the Palestinians if they do not enter into peace talks with Israel. Palestinians “will not be blackmailed,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.

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Trump threatens to cut US aid to Palestinians

Donald Trump said negotiating on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “off the table,” a move that caused protests in Gaza and elsewhere. (photo: ZUMA Wire / Rex / Shutterstock)

Tuesday’s tweets mark a tacit admission by Trump that his decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had thrown a wrench into his administration’s plans to restart the peace process.

By Peter Beaumont | The Guardian | Jan 3, 2018

“The only thing the president has accomplished by saying he’s taking Jerusalem ‘off the table’ is to ensure he’ll have no place at the table where the conflict will be resolved diplomatically and a peaceful, secure future for the Jewish or Palestinian peoples ensured.
“In threatening to cut off future ‘huge’ payments to the Palestinians, the president is actually posing a direct threat to Israel’s security & well-being. American aid supports training for Palestinian security forces who have been partners of the IDF in preventing terror.”
— Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street

Donald Trump has dramatically escalated his conflict with the Palestinian leadership, threatening to cut funding for the Palestinian Authority unless it recommences peace talks.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, earlier said the US would cut funds to UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, unless the Palestinian Authority went back to the negotiating table.

In what appeared to be an angry and defensive acknowledgement that his quest for the “ultimate deal” of Middle East peace has foundered following his controversial recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump lashed out at the Palestinian leadership.

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