Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former senior adviser Jared Kushner says Saudi Arabia is a safer place for Jews than college campuses in the US.
“One of the ironies is that, as an American Jew, you’re safer in Saudi Arabia right now than you are on a college campus like Columbia University,” Kushner, who is Jewish, said on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
“They allowed me to speak freely,” Kushner, 42, said of the Saudis after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia, where he spoke at a conference.
There has been a wave of antisemitic incidents across the US in which pro-Palestinian protesters take their anger out on Jewish students on campus.
Columbia University was forced to postpone its Giving Day fundraising last week as its campus continues to be roiled in tensions over the conflict in Israel. Billionaire donor, Leon Cooperman has threatened to cut off funds to the institution over the anti-Israel activity on campus, including by a professor who has called Oct. 7’s deadly Hamas terror assault on Israel “awesome.”
On Wednesday night, Jewish students also were forced to remain inside a library at Cooper Union in New York City while protesters screamed at them from outside.
Some of the Jewish students heard the demonstrators chant, “Globalize the intifada from New York to Gaza!” according to New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (R-Brooklyn).
Kushner, the scion of a wealthy Jewish American family, has been particularly cozy with the Saudis. After he departed the Trump-era White House, his private equity firm received a $2 billion investment from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
During his time in the Trump administration, Kushner tried to help broker normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
A key diplomatic breakthrough came in September 2020, when the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
But a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel has remained ever elusive.
Polls have indicated that the public in the UAE and Bahrain are leery of the move. The Biden administration had still sought to try to foster good relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but since Hamas’ bloody surprise attack on Israel, there are doubts of any warming of tensions between the two countries.
But Kushner was remained optimistic that Riyadh might still play ball.
“Yes, I believe they would like to move forward with the deal with America and with Israel,” Kushner said when asked about whether the a normalization in relations could still happen.
“The deal that’s being discussed isn’t just a partnership with Israel. It’s also deepening their ties with America,” he said of Saudi Arabia.
“We have to keep in mind that, if America is not close to Saudi Arabia, then [the Saudis] will go in the other direction to China. And so I think that the topic is being discussed.”
Before the war erupted in Israel, Biden administration officials mulled giving a mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia as well as sharing nuclear technology with Riyadh for civilian purposes, the New York Times reported.
Under the hypothetical mutual defense treaty, which is one of the deal-sweeteners believed to still be in consideration, both the US and Saudi Arabia would agree to militarily support the other if attacked.
The Biden administration has had a somewhat rocky relation with the Saudis. During his 2020 campaign, President Biden suggested the oil giant would be relegated to a pariah status.
He had been vocally critical of the vicious 2018 gutting of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Earlier this month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who has functioned as a de facto ruler of the kingdom, kept Secretary of State, Antony Blinken waiting for hours for a meeting and didn’t show up until the next morning, The Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile Israel began an expanded ground offensive in the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas members, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Saturday. So far, more than 1,400 Israelis and 33 Americans have been killed in the conflict.
Over 8,000 Palestinians were estimated to have been killed by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. That dataset has been subject to controversy because of Hamas’ track record.