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Opinion: What world is Jared Kushner living in?

Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst, a vice president at New America, a professor of practice at Arizona State University and the host of the Audible podcast “In the Room” also on Apple and Spotify. He is the author of “The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

Is Jared Kushner clueless?

Kushner’s newly disclosed musings last month that Gaza has a lot of “very valuable” waterfront property reminds one of Marie Antoinette’s purported observation, “Let them eat cake.”

The former Trump White House senior adviser talked up the possible worth of Gaza’s waterfront real estate at an event at Harvard in February when already more than half the buildings in Gaza had been damaged or destroyed, according to multiple news reports. And this week, the UN warned of impending famine in northern Gaza.

At the Harvard event, Kushner also suggested that the 1.4 million people sheltering in southern Gaza in Rafah might be moved into Egypt or to the Negev desert in southern Israel to shield them from a potential Israeli attack. Kushner’s thoughts appeared to be in sync with those of his old family friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who has approved a plan to invade Rafah.

Kushner’s notions are fantasies, of course, since the Egyptians are not going to accept substantial numbers of Palestinian refugees, let alone the more than one million sheltering in Rafah, something they have made clear repeatedly. Nor is Israel going to accommodate them.

The October 7th attacks by Hamas on Israel were inexcusable, and Israel had every right to avenge them.

Still, Palestinian rage has been building for years, and Kushner, as then-President Donald Trump’s shadow secretary of state, helped contribute to this, something Kushner seems to be blissfully unaware of.

The pace of new West Bank settlements built by the Israelis accelerated during Kushner’s tour of duty as the self-appointed Middle East peace czar, according to analyses by The Associated Press, and the Trump administration publicly took the position that these new settlements were not illegal, reversing decades of US policy on the issue.

The Trump administration also moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something previous administrations had avoided doing because Palestinians also regard Jerusalem as their capital, and Muslims look upon it as a sacred city because the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam.

When the US embassy opened in Jerusalem, Kushner declared, “Peace is within reach.” Meanwhile, in a telling split screen, Israeli forces in Gaza were simultaneously killing dozens of Palestinians protesting the opening of the embassy.

Kushner’s “Abraham Accords” were supposed to bring peace to the region because, in Kushner’s fantasy, if some Arab states recognized Israel, they would invest in Gaza and the West Bank and help set the conditions for a two-state solution, which he characterized in the Wall Street Journal as a mere “real estate dispute.”

It appears that in Kushner’s mind, he is a modern-day President Jimmy Carter bringing peace to the Mideast as Carter did by brokering the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, mortal enemies that had fought four wars against each other, and a peace agreement that still holds nearly half a century later.

In his modestly titled memoir “Breaking History,” Kushner wrote: “Humbled by the complexity of the task, I orchestrated some of the most significant breakthroughs in diplomacy in the last fifty years.” Wow!

The Abraham Accords resulted in two small Gulf monarchies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signing deals recognizing the state of Israel for the first time, and Kosovo, Morocco and Sudan following suit. The agreements had helped ease tensions and promote economic ties in the region before the Hamas attack on October 7, but they did nothing to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

As a corollary to the Abraham Accords, Kushner planned to drum up $50 billion for Palestinian projects, but this never happened because the Palestinians boycotted an investment conference that Kushner hosted in Bahrain in 2019.

At the conference, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that investments in the West Bank and Gaza were “going to be like a hot I.P.O.,” the phrase for an initial public offering of stock, which may have been the dumbest thing that anyone in the Trump administration said publicly during their four years in office.

The “hot IPO” is now a smoking ruin that evokes Dresden after World War II. Yet, six months out of office Kushner kept failing upward with a nice investment from the Saudis of $2 billion for his investment fund, which had all the appearances of a reward for the work he did aiding the Saudis when he was the Middle East czar during the Trump administration.

Perhaps Kushner’s fund will lead the charge to build the first Trump Tower in Gaza with some really fantastic waterfront views, but somehow, I doubt it. Even Jared Kushner can’t be that clueless.

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