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Kushner's White House role now focused mainly on Israeli-Palestinian peace

FILE - In this July 25, 2017 file photo, White House Senior Adviser and envoy, Jared Kushner, listens at right as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File
Kushner's once sprawling profile said whittled down as Kelly seeks order in chaotic White House

Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to United States President Donald Trump, has seen his White House role whittled down from a once sprawling portfolio to now almost exclusive focus on advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to US media reports.

Kushner, whose appointment to his father-in-law's administration in January despite his having no policy or diplomatic experience sparked accusations of nepotism, was once charged with heading a number of diverse projects.

In addition to being tipped to help revive moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the 35-year-old businessman was tasked with renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), tacking the country's opiate crisis, and reducing government bureaucracy through the establishment of the Office of American Innovation.

However, separate reports published by The New York Times and The Washington Post on Saturday say that Kushner's role in the Trump administration has been reduced over recent months and is now almost primarily focused on the Middle East peace process.

"Jared’s portfolio is Israeli-Palestinian peace, and he respects what his lane is," The Washington Post quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Autorité palestinienne

According to the reports, Kushner's shrinking workload was driven by the appointment of retired Marine Corps general John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, who replaced Reince Priebus in the role in July following a dizzying series of departures which saw one staffer after another resign or leave.

It also comes as Kushner's contacts with foreign leaders are under scrutiny, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller now probing Kushner's contacts with Israel during the presidential transition as part of a wider investigation into allegations of collusion with foreign powers by the Trump team.

Mueller's chief concerns are the reported overtures made in December 2016 by Israeli figures to Kushner and other senior staffers on Trump's transition team concerning a United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Muller is reportedly investigating Kushner's meetings with other foreign leaders and looking into possible charges he was involved in the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Kushner, however, remains an integral part of Trump's push to clinch one of the United States' most elusive foreign policy goals -- peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Jared is working very hard on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the last thing I would ever do is get in the way of that possibility," Trump is quoted by The New York Times as saying Friday. "Jared has been very effective since the earliest days of the campaign and the same is true today. He understood the movement then and has been helpful implementing the agenda the American people voted for since."

In recent months, Kushner has been shuttling around the Middle East with Trump's former personal attorney turned peace envoy Jason Greenblatt in an intensive push to revive the moribund peace process. The two have met on a number of occasions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as leaders from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Attempts at getting Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back to the table have lain fallow since the previous US administration gave up on intense shuttle diplomacy by former Secretary of State John Kerry in early 2014.

(Staff with agencies)


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