Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Inside Washington: Acts and scenes

Followed by  Thomas Gorguissian

The “Ultimate Deal” – but where is the “macher”?

In a week of talking and arguing once again about the possibility of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Brookings Institution’s Saban Centre held its annual forum in Washington last weekend entitled “ ‘America First’ and the Middle East.” Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, was there at the end of the forum in a keynote conversation with Haim Saban, the Israeli American media and entertainment mogul who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1944.

Jared Kushner, who rarely appears publicly, said in this conversation: “The president has a very long career of accomplishing things that a lot of people think are impossible.” He also noted: “When we started the process of looking at how to create the peace deal, the first thing a lot of people told us was that it wasn’t the right time, that we’re wasting our time.” In discussing anything except the content of the expected and long-promised “Ultimate Deal,” Kushner, 36, pointed out: “Both sides really trust the president, and that’s very important. The fact that both sides trust him has been very important. As this process has gone through, our team has tried very hard to do a lot of listening – not just with Israelis, with Palestinians – [to] understand what their views and red lines are. We’ve done the same with different countries in the region. We’re trying to find a solution that comes from the region, not to impose.” In his half-hour conversation, Trump’s senior strategist and one of the most trusted people in the president’s close circle said: “We’ve been very focused on the deal, spending seven to eight months, and you see a lot of reasons why this has failed – there are a lot of distractions that come up. But I tell my guys – we’re not chasing rabbits. A lot of the issues that come up on a daily basis are because of not having a final-status agreement. We try to stay focused on solving the bigger issues.”

At one point Saban said to Kushner: “To achieve [Middle East peace], the team has in it an entrepreneur – you – a real estate lawyer, a bankruptcy lawyer. I don’t know how you’ve lasted eight months in this lineup. But that’s for another day. And it’s impressive that it’s still going. There’s not a Middle East macher in this group. How do you operate with people who basically... with all due respect, a bunch of orthodox Jews who have no idea about anything? What are you guys doing? Seriously I don’t understand this.” Kushner’s response came after the audience laughter: “I’ll definitely say it’s not a conventional team… It’s a perfectly qualified team. How is that?” “Macher” is a Yiddish term meaning ‘mover and shaker, a person who makes things happen.’ As the Washington Post noted, “three members of Kushner’s team, including him, are orthodox Jews.” The other team members are Jason Greenblatt, the White House special representative for international negotiations, who was chief legal officer of the Trump Organisation, and David Friedman, who was Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and is the current US ambassador to Israel. The Post also pointed out in its report about the team that “the fourth team member is Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser and an Egyptian American who is a Coptic Christian.” The “Ultimate Deal” is still vague and mysterious – until further notice. 

 

A new National Security Strategy – “tough” and “corrective”

National Security Adviser Lt Gen HR McMaster said last weekend in the Reagan National Defence Forum in California that a new National Security Strategy document has been finalised and concluded.  It presents a strategy that will “focus on protecting our homeland, advancing American prosperity, preserving peace through strength… and finally enhancing American influence,” McMaster said.

It is the first National Security Strategy (NSS) of the Trump’s administration, and its details are going to be announced in the next few weeks. This new strategy was described as “a tough approach” and also as “a corrective” of the last 16 years of American foreign policy. White House officials told The Wall Street Journal that “the strategy encompasses the threat of North Korea’s nuclear arms, global terrorism and Iranian meddling, as well as China’s growing influence in Asia and Russian aggression and propaganda efforts in the West.” According to the Journal, “The administration’s national security strategy has been in development since Gen McMaster joined the administration in March and was discussed by President Donald Trump’s top national security advisers last week, officials said.” In last weekend’s security forum, General McMaster said: “We do not base national security decisions on rigid ideology, but instead on our core national interests and clearly defined objectives derived from those interests.” He also noted: “We must acknowledge that the international system is, above all, characterised by competition, interaction and change.”

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