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Jared Kushner’s absurd ideas about Gaza are a preview of Trump’s policies

Jared Kushner’s absurd ideas about Gaza are a preview of Trump’s policies

Former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is bubbling with fresh ideas on how to resolve the Israel-Hamas war. There’s just one problem: All of his ideas are terrible.

In a February interview at Harvard University posted on YouTube earlier this month, the former senior adviser to Trump offered solutions for managing the conflict that were at turns politically illiterate and offensive, including a seeming openness to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. 

Kushner’s comments serve as a potential preview of how a future Trump administration might approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a sane world, his views would be nothing more than the ramblings of one of today's worst real estate investors. But Kushner’s comments serve as a potential preview of how a future Trump administration might approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During his time in the Trump White House, Kushner worked as a point man on, among other things, Middle Eastern diplomacy. He said in February that he wouldn’t join the White House if Trump were to win again, but his outlook still provides a window into the thinking of Trump’s inner circle. And given his family ties to the former president, he could still informally advise Trump on the matter without re-entering the White House. 

Kushner’s most eyebrow-raising remark in the interview was that “Gaza’s waterfront property could be very valuable if people would focus on building up livelihoods.” It is, at best, insensitive to talk about Gaza through the lens of real estate value as Israel wages a brutal bombardment campaign in the territory that has already destroyed or damaged most of its buildings and killed tens of thousands of people. Hearing a rich real estate mogul treat a war zone that’s become virtually uninhabitable as a potential luxury investment is nauseating. 

To be clear, Kushner’s language initially suggests he’s talking about how Palestinians could benefit from a more developed waterfront — he goes on to say Palestinians should have spent less money on “munitions” and more money on “innovation.” This of course conveniently overlooks how Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza and strict control of movement and goods in and out of the territory has destroyed its ability to develop a functioning economy

But there’s a more concerning subtext to Kushner’s remarks that arises right after his complaint about Palestinians not spending enough on “innovation.” He says, “It’s a little bit of an unfortunate situation there, but I think from Israel’s perspective I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up. But I don’t think that Israel has stated that they don’t want the people to move back there afterwards.”

There are a few glaring problems here. Kushner’s claims about Israel stating that it doesn’t want displaced Gazans to return to their prior life after completing military operations is false. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has encouraged “voluntary migration” out of Gaza during this military operation, which, as I explained earlier this year, is a ruse: If Israel makes Gaza dangerously uninhabitable, then departures are not voluntary. And Netanyahu has also refused to condemn multiple ministers in his government who have advocated for removing Palestinians from Gaza and setting up new Israeli settlements in the territory. In this context, Kushner’s remarks about “cleaning up” the area veer close to endorsing the concept of ethnic cleansing. 

Kushner’s ideas for how to “move the people out” of Gaza ranged from naive to downright bizarre. He believes that he could convince Egypt to take in Palestinian refugees, despite Egypt’s long-held and firm opposition to doing so. “I know that’s been refused [by Egypt], but with the right diplomacy I think it would be possible,” Kushner confidently ventured. He also proposed that Israel “just bulldoze something in the Negev,” seemingly suggesting that Israel import millions of Palestinians and keep them in some kind of facility within Israel, in the Negev desert, which not only sounds like a logistical and human rights nightmare, but also sounds like a forced population transfer to a place where presumably most Israelis would not want Gazans — within Israel’s borders. 

When his interviewer, Harvard professor Tarek Masoud, seemed shocked at the proposal and asked if he had heard this idea being floated within Israel, Kushner shrugged. “I don't know. I’m sitting in Miami Beach right now. I’m looking at this situation and I’m just thinking: ‘What would I do if I was there?’” he said. And at another point in the interview, when Masoud pointed out that many Arabs are concerned that if Palestinians are forced to leave Gaza they won’t be able to return, Kushner nonchalantly replied “Um. Maybe. But I’m not sure there’s much left of Gaza at this point.”

Much of Kushner’s spitballing about convincing Israel or Egypt to accept Palestinians can be dismissed as fantastical. But the underlying sentiments should not. Kushner’s disregard for Palestinian dignity is in line with Trump’s. His comfort with co-signing the Israeli far right’s pulverization of Gaza is too. And of course Kushner and Trump share a proclivity for wading confidently into geopolitical maneuvering without having any understanding of what they're getting into. The Biden administration is continually failing to take substantive action to discourage Israel from its violations of international law. But Kushner’s remarks are a reminder of how Trump would somehow make the situation even worse.