As the deadliest day of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza War unfolded on Monday, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner addressed a crowd at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and said he believes “peace is within reach.”
“We believe that it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give so all people can live in peace, safe from danger, free from fear and able to pursue their dreams,” Kushner said. “I believe peace is within reach if we dare to believe the future can be different from the past. That we are not condemned to relive history, and that the way things were is not how they must forever be.”
Kushner’s remarks at the embassy opening on Monday amounted to his most significant policy speech to date and the jarring split screen on Monday underscored the enormity of the undertaking the President’s son-in-law has been tasked with – and the challenges his efforts have faced so far. The speech was also a rare public appearance for Kushner, who has kept a low public profile, particularly as the special counsel’s investigation and security clearance issues have dogged him in recent months.
In his 16 months at the White House, Kushner has toiled, mostly behind the scenes, to craft a peace proposal whose details have so far remained shrouded in secrecy.
But Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the US Embassy to the holy city threw the biggest wrench to date in the administration’s peace-brokering efforts, with Palestinian leaders refusing to engage the administration since the December announcement.
Since then, Kushner and other senior administration officials have insisted they are forging ahead on crafting a peace proposal and have sought to frame the President’s Jerusalem decision as one that is fostering the right conditions for peace.
“As Israel turns 70, the search for a lasting peace turns over a new leaf: one of realism and of not being afraid to stand strongly with our allies for what is good, for what is right, and for what is true,” Kushner said Monday. “When there is peace in this region, we will look back upon this day and remember that the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.”
That “journey to peace” seemed elusive on Monday, though, as more than four dozen Palestinians were killed in Gaza by Israeli security forces who used both lethal and nonlethal means to disperse protests along the border and prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel. Footage of the clashes aired on several networks simultaneously with Kushner’s remarks at the embassy opening.
Kushner did not ignore the developments in Gaza, saying, “those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
The comments and the visuals of Kushner and other top US officials – including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump – at the embassy opening will further solidify the Trump administration’s approach to peace as one that is more concerned with backing up Israel than playing the role of mediator between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
When he was not speaking, Kushner sidled up next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was beaming during much of the event marking the embassy’s opening – a historic first in Israel’s history, as the United States and other countries have had their embassies in Tel Aviv.
It was clear on Monday that the embassy opening was about far more than the peace process, with Kushner and other administration officials emphasizing that it was another campaign promise kept.
“While presidents before him backed down from their pledge to move the American embassy once in office, this President delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it,” Kushner said.
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, White House senior adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt also attended the ceremony as part of the US delegation.
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Meagan Vazquez, Ameera Ahmad, Zachary Cohen and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.