Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu rejected claims Thursday by former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner that Netanyahu’s declared plans to extend sovereignty over Judea and Samaria in 2020 had not been coordinated with the U.S.
“The allegation that Prime Minister Netanyahu surprised Jared Kushner and [former] president [Donald] Trump by announcing Israel’s intention to apply Israeli law to the 30 percent of Judea and Samaria envisioned in the Trump plan as sovereign Israeli territory is completely false,” the Jerusalem Post cited a a spokesperson for Netanyahu as saying.
Both Trump and Kushner were reportedly incensed by former Netanyahu’s “surprise” announcement that Israel would annex wide swaths of Judea and Samaria, Kushner reportedly wrote in his new book, Breaking History: A White House Memoir.
As Breitbart News reported at the time, Netanyahu declared in January 2020 — shortly after Trump’s peace plan was unveiled — that he intended to consider annexing Judea and Samaria, including the strategic settlements of the Jordan Valley region.
In Kushner’s new book, Breaking History: A White House Memoir, he claims that then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman incorrectly told Netanyahu that the Trump administration would back annexation, according to the Times of Israel.
The Americans were reportedly taken off guard by Netanyahu’s announcement that he would soon be bringing a vote for sovereignty to the cabinet soon after Trump administration officials unveiled the peace plan known as the “Vision for Peace.”
Shortly after Netanyahu’s announcement, Trump reportedly asked his advisors, “What the hell was that?”
Then-ambassador to Israel David Friedman informed reporters that Israel would soon begin to advance the sovereignty plans. However, according to veteran Israeli reporter Barak Ravid, Kushner and Trump were outraged with Friedman and Netanyahu for not discussing the matter with them before the announcement.
“As it turned out, Friedman had assured Bibi that he would get the White House to support annexation more immediately. He had not conveyed this to me or anyone on my team,” Kushner wrote.
The implication is that the former Israeli prime minister nearly torpedoed the Abraham Accords — something Netanyahu is vigorously rejecting.
Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, was captured by Israel from Jordan in a defensive war in 1967, after Jordan began shelling Israeli targets in West Jerusalem, defying behind-the-scenes pleas from Israel to stay out of the conflict.
After attempts to trade land for peace failed, many on Israel’s right have argued that Israel should annex the region — that is, apply Israeli law to it — either in part or as a whole. Netanyahu, facing several tough elections in 2019-20, wanted to do so.
However, President Donald Trump wanted to bring about a regional peace agreement, and leaders of Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates made clear that if Israel annexed Judea and Samaria, it would jeopardize their ability to make a deal.
Ironically, the possibility of annexation created a bargaining chip that Israel and the U.S. could then trade for peace, after Emirati ambassador Yousef al Otaiba published an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper saying annexation would jeopardize peace.
The implication was that refraining from annexation could bring about the peace deal that Trump had proposed — and it did.