Avi Berkowitz

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Avi Berkowitz
Avi Berkowitz.png
Special Representative for International Negotiations
Assumed office
November 1, 2019
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byJason Greenblatt
Personal details
Born (1988-11-04) November 4, 1988 (age 31)
Political partyRepublican
EducationQueens College (BA)
Harvard Law School (JD)

Avrahm "Avi" Berkowitz (born November 4, 1988) is an American attorney and political adviser, who currently serves as the Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, in addition to retaining his former role as Advisor to Jared Kushner.

Education and early career[edit]

Berkowitz grew up in Lawrence, New York. He attended Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, an Orthodox Jewish high school. After graduation, he studied at Kol Torah, an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem. In 2009, he returned to the United States and enrolled in Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. Eventually, he transferred to Queens College, where he finished his undergraduate work and received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Afterwards, he attended law school at Harvard University.

During law school, Berkowitz taught undergraduate classes, including one called “Road to the White House,” years before he would campaign for Donald Trump.[1] After he graduated from Harvard Law School, he went to work for the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.[2]

Career[edit]

Kushner Companies[edit]

Prior to serving in the White House, Berkowitz worked for Kushner at his company, Kushner Companies. Berkowitz then worked on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign before finally joining the White House staff after Trump was inaugurated.[1]

The New York Observer[edit]

Berkowitz briefly worked as a writer for the New York Observer. Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law, high-level adviser, and future Berkowitz boss in the White House, had owned the newspaper since 2006.[1]

Donald Trump presidential campaign (2016)[edit]

Berkowitz's job on the Trump campaign was assistant director of data analytics. One of his jobs was to run a Facebook Live talk show called “Trump Tower Live.” The show was setup in a format similar to a cable TV talk show. At first, the talk show was broadcast before and after the presidential debates. In the final weeks leading up to the election, it played on a weekly basis.[1]

The New York Times described Trump Tower Live in unflattering terms: “essentially agitprop [political propaganda] presented as news.”[2] However, because of its format, the show “fueled speculation at the time that Trump would start his own national news network.”[2]

The first episode of Trump Tower Live got 60,000 viewers.[3]

Executive Office of the President[edit]

On September 6, 2018, the White House announced that Berkowitz was promoted, from Special Assistant to the President and Assistant to the Senior Advisor, to Deputy Assistant to the President and Advisor to the Senior Advisor. (Senior staff within the Executive Office of the President have the title Assistant to the President, second-level staff have the title Deputy Assistant to the President, and third-level staff have the title Special Assistant to the President).[4]

Special Representative for International Negotiations[edit]

On November 1, 2019, Berkowitz was promoted to Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.[5] In January 2020, Berkowitz flew to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to discuss the possibility of releasing the Trump peace plan.[6] On January 28, 2020, the Trump Administration unveiled the plan in a ceremony at the White House.[7]

Recognition[edit]

On September 28, 2019, Berkowitz was named one of the top 50 most influential Jews of 2019 by the Jerusalem Post for his role as a peace envoy in the Middle East peace process.[8]

Policy influence[edit]

Berkowitz in 2020

Middle East peace plan[edit]

In 2019, White House advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt wrote a Middle East peace plan. It was kept a secret within the White House staff, with access limited to four people, one of whom was Berkowitz.[9]

In February 2019, Berkowitz flew with Kushner to six countries (Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) in order to unveil a new closely guarded plan to bring peace to the Middle East.[10]

U.S. embassy in Israel[edit]

Berkowitz also played a key role in the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.[11]

Prison sentencing reform[edit]

Kushner led the White House effort to pass the First Step Act, legislation to reform prison sentencing. Kushner won “bipartisan praise for driving a 20-year effort to reform prison sentencing and criminal justice to the finish line and ignoring repeated declarations that it was dead . . .” Kushner hand-picked Berkowitz and only two other White House aides as part of his team to pass the legislation.[12]

Relationship with Jared Kushner[edit]

Avi Berkowitz met Jared Kushner in Phoenix while he was a student. The two men met while playing basketball.[1]

Once Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Berkowitz went to work at the White House as the “right-hand man” to Kushner. Berkowitz's official title at the White House was “special assistant to the president and assistant to the senior adviser.”[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Relman, Eliza. "Jared Kushner's 28-year-old protégé is his right-hand man in the White House". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  2. ^ a b c "Trump TV Mastermind Avi Berkowitz Tapped as Assistant to Jared Kushner". Haaretz. 2017-01-20. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  3. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (2016-10-26). "Trump TV Offers (Fledgling) Framework for Potential Media Future". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  4. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Appointments for the Executive Office of the President". The White House. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  5. ^ "Avi Berkowitz Making His First Trip to Israel Since Taking Office". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  6. ^ "Trump's Media-Shy New Peace Envoy Berkowitz Meets Israeli Leaders". Times of Israel. 2020-01-07. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  7. ^ "Trump leaps into Middle East fray with peace plan that Palestinians denounce". Reuters. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  8. ^ "The Jerusalem Post's 50 Most Influential Jews of 2019". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  9. ^ "In leaky White House, Trump team keeps Middle East peace plan secret". Reuters. 2019-04-11. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  10. ^ Nast, Condé. "Jared Kushner Is Preparing for Another Face-to-Face Meeting with M.B.S." Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  11. ^ Chozick, Amy; Seligson, Hannah (2018-11-17). "Are Jared and Ivanka Good for the Jews?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  12. ^ "Jared Kushner 'indispensable' on prison reform, model for future Trump fights". Washington Examiner. 2018-12-13. Retrieved 2019-06-24.