When the Saudi Crown Prince interrupts your Seder – and other things we learned from Jared Kushner’s new memoir – The Forward

It was April 8, 2020, the first night of Passover. Jared Kushner had finally sat down for a Seder with his children when a phone call from abroad interrupted his recitation of the Haggadah. On the phone was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who called back to broker a deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia to stabilize oil prices.

The Seder was Kushner’s first family meal in weeks amid intense work at the White House with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. “As we practiced the sacred rituals and partake of the Passover meal, it almost felt like life was back to normal,” Kushner writes in his new book, “Breaking History: A White House Memoir”, slated for publication on Tuesday and obtained early by the Forward. “Never mind the weeks of sleepless nights, missed family time and coming home long after the kids have gone to bed. I savored every second.

Kushner was joined by his close aide Avi Berkowitz, who has also worked on normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries in the region.

“As we sang my favorite Passover song, ‘Vehi Sheamda‘, a prayer about God’s promise to deliver every generation of the Jewish people from their oppressors, the familiar sound of my phone shattered the serenity: it was MBS, and I had to take it,” Kushner recalled. “Ivanka nodded knowingly, of course, but I couldn’t help but notice the disappointed faces of the kids as I walked out of the room.”

Kushner’s book is billed as a backstage account of his work as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, and the role Kushner played in brokering the Abraham Accords. But the book also takes a closer look at the couple’s work in the Trump administration and their personal lives outside of the West Wing.

Here are other key moments from Kushner’s memoir:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem

Kushner reveals that during internal deliberations about moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly refused to let him into the Situation Room , as well as Jason Greenblatt, who was the Middle East peace envoy, because of their Jewish faith.

Kelly told David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, who was part of the meeting with Trump, that “he didn’t want history to show that three Orthodox Jews, who might have a bias in favor of Israel, had taken part in such a substantial meeting”. .” Kusher called it Kelly’s “power play”.

At one of the meetings, Kushner writes that then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who opposed the move, falsely asserted that the Israelis had controlled Jerusalem since “”the 1996 war.” “and that it would not significantly improve the United States’ position with the Israelis. When Friedman accused Tillerson of “just reading talking points someone wrote for you” and suggested that person be fired for the embarrassing mistake, “Tillerson looked at Friedman through his nose and over his glasses. reading, closed her notebook and said, “I have said my part.”

Family values

In 2019, Kushner met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a mission to drum up support for the Trump administration’s peace plan.

While Erdogan was not rushing to approve the plan, he thought of a creative way to grow the Jewish population outside of Israel. “Before our meeting ended, Erdogan encouraged me and Ivanka to have more children and expressed his sincere love for his family,” Kushner writes. The Kushner couple have three children. The youngest, Theodore James, was born in march 2016 as Trump racked up delegates to secure the Republican presidential nomination. Trying to make Kushner more comfortable, Erdogan joked that he encouraged all of his followers to expand their families.

Kibud av’emhonor one’s parents

Kusher recalls the moment he found out his father was pardoned by his father-in-law in the last days of his presidency. Charles Kushner was convicted in 2005 of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering and sentenced to years in prison. “Jared, I just signed a full pardon for your father,” Kushner wrote of the Dec. 23 phone call he received from Trump. “I was so upset I didn’t know what to say,” Kushner writes.

The elder Kushner, out of jail since 2006, initially declined an offer of clemency, a privilege granted to the commander-in-chief and often used before leaving office. “I’m at peace with what happened and have rebuilt my life in a way where I have all the right priorities and I’m comfortable with who I am. I didn’t want to cause any controversy to Donald,” he told his son. “But honestly hearing this news makes me realize how much I really wanted one but was too proud to ask for it. This allows me to close a very difficult period of my life.

Kushner, who visited his father in prison weekly, said he never imagined having this conversation after 15 years. “I certainly never imagined that the President of the United States would pardon my own father,” he wrote. “At that moment, I felt that only God’s hand could have written this actual script, and his plans are always bigger than ours.”

Earlier in the book, Kushner writes about the positive treatment his father received from his fellow inmates in prison. He says he once sat down on the benches in the yard when an inmate shouted, “Hey, it’s Charles the Great!” “My dad turned to me and joked, ‘Maybe I don’t want to leave here – no one in my society has ever called me that,'” Kushner writes.

Two versions of the story

Kushner does not go into detail about the controversy that followed Trump’s “both sides” response to the deadly 2017 bombing. Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. But he criticized the perception of the remarks by pointing to the many times Trump was called a racist by Democrats, particularly during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. “Democrats and the media took Trump’s words -” great people on both sides.” ‘ – out of context,” Kushner writes. “Trump was referring to peaceful protesters, some supporting and some opposing, tearing down the monument to Robert E. Lee. Time and again, Trump had forcefully denounced the heinous violence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but the media seized on every overture to call Trump a racist. I knew from my personal relationship with the president that the accusation was nonsense.

Capitol Attack

Kushner writes that when Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, he was in the air on a flight returning from Saudi Arabia.

“The violent storming of the Capitol was wrong and illegal,” Kushner writes. “It didn’t represent the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters, or the tens of millions of Trump voters, who were good, decent, law-abiding citizens.”

He said his impression was that no one in the White House expected violence that day, and if they had, “they would have stopped it from happening.”

Kushner writes that morale in the White House fell to an all-time low that day, but he still encouraged staffers who came to his office ready to offer their resignation, to stay for the good of the country. . “It’s a time when we have to do what’s right, not what’s popular,” he said. “If the country is better off with you here, then stay. If it doesn’t matter, do what you want.

the front key excerpts from the book originally previewed last monthincluding on Ivanka Trump’s conversion and Kushner’s relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his work on the Abraham Accords.

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