Kushner upbeat, undeterred in first public remarks on Middle East peace process


President Donald Trump’s White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner speaks during the Saban Forum 2017 in Washington on Dec. 3. | Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Shorter Jared Kushner: I’m still here.

On Sunday, the president’s son-in-law used his first-ever public remarks on the Middle East peace process to make a case for his own continued relevance in the Trump White House — even as the Russia probe and the more stringent reign of chief of staff John Kelly have seemingly pushed him to the margins.

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“We do think it’s achievable,” Kushner said of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. His comments came during a 30-minute question-and-answer session with Haim Saban, one of the Democratic Party’s biggest pro-Israel donors, at the annual Saban Forum, held at the Willard InterContinental Washington Hotel.

Kushner’s much-anticipated appearance came amid new scrutiny of his role as the “very senior” transition official who instructed then-incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador in late 2016 about a United Nations resolution concerning Israel. And it came days after The New York Times reported that Kelly has considered a West Wing reorganization that includes Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, leaving the administration altogether by the year’s end.

But his relaxed appearance — a blue blazer over a black sweater, with no tie — sent a clear message that Kushner is soldiering on, undeterred. His criminal attorney, Abbe Lowell, who is representing him in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, was in the audience for Kushner’s talk on Sunday. But other attendees said it was simply in Lowell’s off-the-clock capacity as a longtime figure in Washington’s power Jewish community, not as a legal representative.

Overseeing the Middle East peace process over the past year has been one of Kushner’s most ambitious portfolios — and one he has purposefully conducted quietly, without announcing any timeline for a deal, and even making secret, unannounced trips to countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia.

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