Israel, having suffered the killing and kidnapping of civilians earlier this month, is planning an invasion of Gaza to eliminate Hamas, the militant group behind the attacks. This will put many ordinary Palestinians, already struggling under Hamas rule, in a deadly situation. The foreign minister of Iran, which backs Hamas, has warned that “no one can guarantee control over the situation and prevent the conflict from spreading” if Israel proceeds. Many fear that Hezbollah, also backed by Iran, might attack Israel from the north. The U.S. has sent warships to the region as a deterrent.
As tensions mount, an interview with Jared Kushner released Wednesday by podcaster Lex Fridman has drawn attention. Kushner is the son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, who made him a senior advisor and put him in charge of Middle East policy.
While the interview lasts several hours and covers many areas—including a controversial $2 billion investment that the Saudi government made in Kushner’s private equity fund after he left his White House role—part of it focuses on the potential of the Middle East should it ever achieve peace and stability.
“The thing that’s held the region back for all these years has just been the conflict and the division,” Kushner said.
There were glimmers of hope last month, when Israel and Saudi Arabia seemed to be at the cusp of a breakthrough peace agreement, raising hopes for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“One of Iran’s worst nightmares is to have Israel and Saudi interlink together,” said Kushner. “It would be a game changer for the region.”
With violence in the Gaza Strip now likely to escalate, the normalization talks appear to be off the table.
Kushner believes—not surprisingly—that the reelection of Trump would help get things back on track in the region. He said the Trump admin was able to “project strength” and “stop through crushing sanctions” financial resources that Iran, which “seeks instability,” was sending to “terror groups.”
“I do think that the job he did as a foreign policy president was tremendous,” he said. “Under President Biden, this is the second war that’s broken out in the world, and when you have weak leadership, the world becomes a less safe place. My hope and prayers are that President Trump is reelected and that he’s able to then restore calm and peace and prosperity to the world.”
In the Middle East, he said, “you have young leadership now in Saudi Arabia and UAE and Qatar, and there’s a much more ambitious agenda now for the region to make it an economic superpower and hub of the world.”
He described Israel as “one of the most burgeoning and exciting tech economies in the world, and if you think about it, it’s almost like having a Silicon Valley not connected to California.”
He added, “I do think that the region has tremendous potential, it’s just been held back by bad policy, bad leadership, bad objectives.”