In a new book, Kushner claims envoy Friedman went rogue to fix the West Bank annexation

In a new book, Kushner claims envoy Friedman went rogue to fix the West Bank annexation

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman defected after telling then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the Trump administration would back plans to annex large parts of the West Bank, former senior White House adviser Jared Kushner claims in a new one Book to be released Later this month.

Kushner’s report, the latest account by a former Trump administration official that offers a glimpse into the White House’s somewhat chaotic rollout of the 2020 peace plan, appears to contradict Friedman, who insisted when he published his own memoir earlier this year, that he was in lockstep with Kushner on the issue of annexation, which he personally supported.

“The accusation that I run my own agenda with Netanyahu [applying Israeli] sovereignty [to parts of the West Bank] and not letting the President know, not letting anyone know, contrary to Jared’s wishes — it’s 100% wrong, 100% wrong,” Friedman told The Times of Israel in February.

But Kushner tells a different story in Breaking History: A White House Memoir, due for release Aug. 23.

In it, Kushner recalls being furious when Netanyahu used his speech at the January 2020 White House unveiling of the Trump peace plan to announce that the president had become the first world leader to assert Israel’s sovereignty over much of the West Bank and as a result Israel would annex all West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.

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For at least the next four years, Israel will maintain the status quo “in areas that your future plan will not designate as part of Israel,” Netanyahu told the US President. “Israel will preserve the possibility of peace.” Then the Prime Minister added: “At the same time, Israel will apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, to all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and to other areas that your plan designates as part of Israel and to which the United States have agreed to recognize as part of Israel.”

“That wasn’t what we negotiated,” writes Kushner.

“Under our plan, we would eventually recognize Israel’s sovereignty over agreed territories if Israel took steps to advance Palestinian statehood within the area we delineate,” he says, insisting that US approval of Israel’s annexation will take time would and was not a foregone conclusion.

In a new book Kushner claims envoy Friedman went rogue

Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with then-US President Donald Trump during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington January 28, 2020. (AP/Susan Walsh)

“I clung to my chair so hard my knuckles turned white, as if my grip could stop Bibi. I specifically asked the Israeli ambassador [to the US] Ron Dermer to make sure Bibi keeps his remarks short and above the politics of the day,” Kushner continues. “Both in tone and in substance, the speech was far off the mark. There was nothing magnanimous or forgiving towards the Palestinians in it. It was essentially a campaign speech for his domestic political audience and misrepresented our plan.”

As Netanyahu’s speech crosses the report’s 20-minute mark, Kushner writes about his concern that the promise of annexation would nullify his efforts to garner support for the peace plan from Arab countries, three of which had sent ambassadors to the unveiling ceremony.

The Trump plan broke with previous US administrations and envisaged the creation of a semi-contiguous Palestinian state in about 70% of the West Bank, a handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of the Gaza Strip and some areas of southern Israel – if the Palestinians accept it Israel as a Jewish state, disarming Hamas and other terrorist groups in the coastal enclave, and meeting other conditions.

The plan also allowed Israel to eventually annex each of its settlements, granted the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River; and prohibits Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

“I had guided them through the peace proposal and given them my word on it [then-US president Donald] Trump would present a dignified and balanced proposal – one that would require compromises on both sides. But that certainly wasn’t the deal Bibi was describing,” Kushner writes.

“If the rollout had gone according to plan, it would have worked [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas in an impossible position. A harsh response to a credible proposal would further alienate him while exposing the hollowness of his position. But the Israeli Prime Minister had given Abbas exactly the kind of opening he needed to reject our plan.”

As he and the President returned to the Oval Office after the ceremony, a visibly disappointed Trump said to him, “Bibi gave a campaign speech. I feel dirty,” says Kushner’s memoir.

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A close-up of the Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace Conceptual Map,” released on January 28, 2020.

“As it turns out, Ambassador David Friedman had assured Bibi that he would get the White House to support the annexation immediately. He hadn’t shared this with me or anyone on my team,” Kushner writes.

Friedman went further after the ceremony, telling reporters that Israel “didn’t have to wait at all” to annex and that the only limiting factor was “the time it takes to get internal approvals.”

Kushner writes that he then confronted Friedman, who insisted that he had taken the Trump proposal accurately. “Our conversation got heated and I pulled the plan out of the folder on my desk.”

“‘Where does it say that in here?’ I asked. “It doesn’t say that in here. You are one of the best lawyers in the world. You know we didn’t agree to that.’”

Kushner writes that Friedman then suggested that he and Kushner “remain ambiguous and let Bibi say whatever he wants” so they could see how it played out.

Kushner was unimpressed and responded that Friedman was ignoring the broader implications of Netanyahu’s claims.

“‘You haven’t spoken to a single person from any country outside of Israel,’ I shot back. “You don’t have to deal with the British, you don’t have to deal with the Moroccans, and you don’t have to deal with the Saudis or the Emiratis, who all take my word for explanations. I have to deal with the consequences of this. You don’t,'” he writes.

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Then-U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly September 20, 2017 in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Friedman was beginning to see the damage Netanyahu’s speech had done and expressed a willingness to back down, Kushner writes, adding that he ordered the envoy to meet with the Israeli prime minister and tell him that the U.S would not support his plan for an immediate annexation of the West Bank.

“Tell him … if we’re lucky, this hasn’t completely destroyed my credibility with other countries, and I’ll still be able to get the statements of support I wrote,” Kushner told Friedman.

“To his credit, Friedman cleared the misunderstanding with Israelis and the media.”

Friedman told the Times of Israel on Sunday, “Jared and I have different memories of those hectic days. But we agree that we have settled our differences in a way that best served US-Israel relations. I stand by my recollection of the events as set out in my memoir ‘Sledgehammer’.”

The former ambassador also referred to Trump’s own remarks at the unveiling ceremony, in which he said the US would “form a joint committee with Israel to convert that.” [peace plan’s] conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering, allowing detection [of Israeli sovereignty] available immediately.”

The aftermath of the unveiling ceremony caused the administration’s relations with the Netanyahu government to deteriorate, with Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer later storming into Kushner’s office to express his frustration, Kushner writes.

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Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets with Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer (right) in his office in Jerusalem; White House Advisor Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second from left); and Special Representative Jason Greenblatt, on July 31, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Disapproving of Dermer’s behavior, Kushner replied, “‘Don’t take us for granted… It took us three years to get to this point. For the first time Israel has moral superiority… But now everything is screwed up. You think you’ve been so effective with this government. I hate to break reality for you, but we haven’t done any of these things because you convinced us to. We did it because we think it was the right thing to do.’”

“Dermer saw that he had gone too far. He apologized and left soon after, knowing full well that it was up to them to clean up the political mess Bibi had created,” Kushner writes.

Netanyahu eventually agreed to suspend his annexation plans later that year in exchange for normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates – an agreement brokered by Kushner and the Trump administration.

Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the claims in Kushner’s book.