WASHINGTON — In the last several months, Jared Kushner’s once-massive White House portfolio has shrunken, leaving his biggest responsibility to lead the administration’s efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a series of reports over the weekend.
Kushner, who is both a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, took on a plethora of projects upon assuming his official role after the inauguration last January, despite having no policy or diplomatic experience.
He was charged with not only trying to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, with the hope of eventually solidifying a groundbreaking accord, but also renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, overseeing the US government’s attempts to alleviate the nation’s opioid epidemic and establishing the Office of American Innovation, an internal group dedicated to reducing government bureaucracy.
Kushner, 36, and his wife Ivanka, who is Trump’s daughter, also had highly public roles and would often sit in on important meetings and take part in ensuing photo opportunities.
But the days when Kushner had a sprawling set of responsibilities and free rein to walk in and out of the Oval Office whenever he wanted are over, according to separate reports published in The New York Times and The Washington Post on Saturday.
These changes stem largely from John Kelly taking over as White House chief of staff from Reince Priebus in July, tasked with restoring order to a chaotic West Wing.
One of Kelly’s first tasks was to fit all of the White House staff into a chain of command. No longer could the president’s closest confidants, such as Kushner, walk into the Oval Office at random. All meetings have to be arranged through him.
“Jared works for me,” Kelly has told associates, The New York Times reported.
According to the reports, there is a newfound understanding in White House circles that Kushner’s fingerprints will not be as ubiquitous as once they were, and that he will harness his energies primarily to trying to strike a peace agreement that has bedeviled generations of presidents and their foreign policy teams.
“Jared’s portfolio is Israeli-Palestinian peace, and he respects what his lane is,” an official told The Washington Post.
Trump himself also alluded to that issue being Kushner’s main concentration in an email chain from Friday that the White House forwarded to The New York Times.
“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,” he said. “Jared has been very effective since the earliest days of the campaign and the same is true today.”
A White House official, contacted by The Times of Israel, declined to comment on the reports.
Kushner has been publicly involved in the peace efforts, shuttling to the region three times in the past year to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. At the same time, special envoy Jason Greenblatt has been a near-constant presence on the ground as the administration tries to cobble together a plan to get the sides back to the negotiating table.
In July, Kushner admitted that a peace deal might not be possible, in a leaked conversation with congressional interns.
“So what do we offer that’s unique? I don’t know,” Kushner said in a recording obtained by Wired magazine. “We’re trying to work with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution. And there may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on.”
Kushner’s allies told both papers the departures of several of his in-house rivals, like Priebus and former White House chief strategist and nationalist firebrand Steve Bannon, liberated Kushner to lend more of his focus to peacemaking and the Office of American Innovation.