(JTA) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner’s role in the White House could range from nothing to brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump was asked Tuesday in an on-the-record meeting with New York Times editorial staff what role Kushner would play in his administration.
“Oh. Maybe nothing. Because I don’t want to have people saying ‘conflict,’” Trump said at first. Then he added that “the president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants,” according to a published transcript of the meeting.
Trump praised his son-in-law, saying: “Jared’s a very smart guy. He’s a very good guy. The people that know him, he’s a quality person and I think he can be very helpful.”
Trump then segued into the Middle East peace process. “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. I would love that; that would be such a great achievement. Because nobody’s been able to do it,” he said.
That prompted a question from reporter Maggie Haberman about whether Kushner “can be part of that.”
Trump replied: “Well, I think he’d be very good at it. I mean he knows it so well. He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.”
Trump added that though “really great people” have told him it is “impossible” to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, “I disagree, I think you can make peace. I think people are tired now of being shot, killed. At some point, when do they come? I think we can do that. I have reason to believe I can do that.”
Trump defended his chief White House strategist, Stephen Bannon, from charges that he has traded in racism and anti-Semitism, and said that he wants to look into if and why he is “energizing” white supremacists.
Trump’s comments came during the wide-ranging interview with reporters, editors and opinion columnists from The New York Times, as well as its publisher Arthur Sulzberger. Trump has had a difficult relationship with the Times, calling it a “failing” newspaper on several occasions.
At the beginning of the interview he told those present that he has “great respect” for the paper, adding, “I think I’ve been treated very rough.” Trump said that he would “like to turn it around. I think it would make the job I am doing much easier.”