White House Official: Kushner Never Said Settlement Freeze Will Topple Netanyahu

Senior official denies report that Trump adviser told Palestinian president that settlement freeze is impossible because it would bring down Netanyahu: 'Nonsense'

A handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority's press office (PPO) on June 21, 2017, shows Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas (R) US President's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner (L) in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
A handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority's press office (PPO) on June 21, 2017, shows Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas (R) US President's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner (L) THAER GHANAIM/AFP

WASHINGTON - A senior White House official strongly denied on Saturday a report in Arab newspaper al-Hayat which said that Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel will not be asked to freeze settlement building because that could lead to a breakdown of Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

"This is nonsense. This comment was never made," the senior official told Haaretz.

According to Al-Hayat, a U.S. delegation headed by  Kushner told Abbas this week that "stopping settlement construction is impossible because it will cause the collapse of the Netanyahu government." 

In June, Al-Hayat reported that Trump is "considering pulling out of peace talks" between Israel and the Palestinians because of the two sides' positions. A month earlier, it reported that Trump will announce the resumption of peace talks during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in May. Both reports turned out to be inaccurate.

The U.S. delegation, including envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, met with Abbas on Thursday during their regional trip aimed at kickstarting peace negotiations

According to Al-Hayat, the delegation led by Kushner expressed openness to the two-state solution while refusing to divide the borders of these countries within the 1967 borders, a determination which the delegation said should be left to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Abbas, who according to the report demanded that the United States explicitly state that the purpose of the negotiations is to reach a two-state solution along the 1967 lines, also asked the delegation to ensure economic freedom for the Palestinian Authority in Area C, which includes 60 percent of the total Palestinian territory. He requested unrestricted exports and imports, and ask to amend the Paris Protocol agreement which defines the economic relationship between Israel and the PA.

In past weeks, skepticism was sounded by Palestinian officials about U.S. peace efforts, but both Netanyahu and Abbas have expressed willingness to cooperate with American efforts to renew the talks.