This week, American president-elect Donald Trump named his Jewish son-in-law as a senior adviser. He is set to become the second most powerful Jew in the United States, following only his wife, Ivanka. Together, this power couple has the ear of the president, and almost unprecedented influence.
Many right-wing Jews are thrilled. Kushner attended a Jewish day school and is Sabbath-observant, while Ivanka converted Orthodox. They hope that Kushner can be a positive bridge between the Jewish community and Trump, pointing to the fact that he arranged for Trump to speak to Aipac during the primaries. Similarly, they believe Kushner can push Trump to take a more pro-Israel line than his predecessor. Signs of this already abound, with Trump’s promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, and his appointment of his pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, as the next American ambassador to Israel.
The left-wing is nervous. Not only did Kushner not prevent the appointment of the hate-mongering Steve Bannon as a senior counsellor, the press is full of stories of a “bromance” between them. When Trump last summer tweeted a graphic calling Hillary, “the most corrupt candidate ever” on top of wads of cash and a Star of David — playing on classically antisemitic associations between Jews and money — Kushner defended him in print.
It may turn out that Trump is moulding Kushner in his image, rather than the other way round. And there are serious risks, too, in having such a prominent Jew associated so closely with this volatile, inexperienced president — particularly if (when) he fails.
Time will tell, I suppose. But those furiously arguing each side have missed the salient point.
The real issue for the Jewish community is not whether Kushner is good or bad for the Jews. It’s that the Jewish establishment has lost control of its relationship with the administration.
No diaspora Jewish community is better organised, better funded or more influential than the American one. The American Jewish community has spent untold millions creating highly professional organisations that know their way around Washington, have deep links to both political parties and can argue for Jewish and Israeli interests.
Now, seemingly out of nowhere, comes a 36-year-old shnip and trumps them all.
The influence of the mighty Aipac is now dwarfed by Kushner’s. So much for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. With this president, who relies so heavily on his family, it’s Kushner’s voice that counts.
And who is Kushner, again? No one can definitively explain his political position on Israel or anything else. While he is clearly an affiliated Jew, his attitude to communal issues and to the 71 per cent of American Jews who voted for Clinton, are unproven. And while it is difficult to complain that no one has elected him to represent the community or Israel because the same is true of so many of our communal leaders, he is the least accountable of the lot.
The Jewish establishment may take comfort from the fact that they are not the only ones to lose control. What they are about to experience is exactly what the Trump revolution is all about. The Republican establishment has also lost control. So has the Democratic establishment, the Intelligence community, the diplomatic corps and practically every other establishment grouping out there. Trump has ripped up the rule book. The old ways of doing things are over; the old bastions of power are now passé.
Watch Miriam Shaviv’s JDOV talk , ‘The Myth of Jewish History’