On Monday evening, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and the senior adviser will board a military plane set to hit five countries in five days to continue to build support for the Trump administration’s economic proposal as part of its Middle East peace plan. Along with Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, Kushner’s deputy Avi Berkowitz, and special assistant to the president Cassidy Dumbauld, Kushner will make stops in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Morocco, according to an administration official. They will meet with leaders of each country, including Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince who the CIA concluded ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
The White House is hoping to promote a $50 billion investment fund for Gaza and the West Bank, which Kushner proposed at a summit in Bahrain earlier this summer. “We are meeting with high-level leaders in all of the stops to start to talk about how much money each partner would be willing to put in,” said the administration official. “We want to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”
Kushner’s Mideast trip comes days after President Donald Trump vetoed a series of bipartisan measures that would have blocked the sales of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as part of a crackdown on human rights violations in Yemen and Khashoggi’s murder. Lawmakers had sought to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The measures had also received bipartisan support to show united opposition to the brutal slaying of Khashoggi. The Trump administration declared an emergency in May to bypass Congress and push billions of dollars in arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The justification was that the administration needed to deter what it called “the malign influence” of Iran in the region. The move enraged lawmakers, who moved to set these legislative measures to stop the sales in motion. Last week Trump said in his veto message that “the joint resolution would hamper the ability of the United States to sustain and shape critical security cooperation activities.”
But, as has happened in the past, Kushner’s meeting with MBS has the potential to take attention away from the trip’s ostensible purpose. Kushner, who grew close to bin Salman, known as MBS, soon after his father-in-law took office, has faced criticism for continuing to engage with the crown prince even after U.S. intelligence concluded that he had been responsible for Khashoggi’s death. MBS did not attend the Bahrain summit in June, but Kushner traveled to Japan just after to attend the G20 summit, where the Saudi prince also traveled and Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, appeared onstage alongside him. The administration official would not comment on whether Kushner or Ivanka met with MBS on the side of the G20. In terms of this week’s meeting, this person said that Kushner is planning to meet with the highest-level leaders from all the countries they are visiting and that MBS falls into that category.
Palestinians and foreign policy experts swiftly derided the administration’s economic proposal when it was unveiled in June, stating that an investment fund focusing on pure financial incentives was rendered meaningless without revealing its political plan. The administration official said that the political plan is ready, but it was delayed when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to reach a coalition government. This person said they have used this time to continue working on the plan, and that they are in a wait-and-see mode to determine when the political aspect might be released. “We believe we put out something reasonable and achievable on the economic side,” the administration official said. On the political side, this person added, “time moves and changes and if you hold out forever for an ideal situation that’s not possible, nothing will happen.”