Trump, Kushner 'Not Friends of Israel': Settler Leader Escalates Rhetoric Over Mideast Plan

U.S. administration only cares about the 2020 election and not Israeli security, prominent leader tells Haaretz, with settlers increasingly uneasy with the prospect of a Palestinian state, despite promises of annexation

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver joint remarks on the Middle East peace plan, Washington, January 28, 2020
U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver joint remarks on the Middle East peace plan, Washington, January 28, 2020Credit: Joshua Roberts/ Reuters
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

A prominent Israeli settler leader told Haaretz on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump and his senior adviser Jared Kushner "have proven in their plan that they are not friends of the State of Israel," responding to calls by American officials to restrain the Israeli right’s opposition to the White House's “Middle East Peace Plan.”

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Over the past few weeks, American officials have conveyed to settler leaders that their vocal criticism of Trump's plan might lead them to shelf it altogether, dubbing their response ungrateful. This followed a public campaign led by the Yesha Council of West Bank settlements, rejecting the prospect of a future Palestinian state as delineated in the American proposal.

Trump and Kushner "do not have Israel's security and settlement interests in mind. All they care about in this outline is promoting their own interests ahead of the upcoming election, [in a way that would] help Trump," Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani argued.

Efrat Mayor Oded Ravivi countered their statements saying that he encountered many "loyal to Israel" at government meetings, and those who hold the idea of Israel as a Jewish state dear to them.

Ayelet Shaked with Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani at the Knesset, May 26, 2020.
Ayelet Shaked with Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani at the Knesset, May 26, 2020.

"In long conversations, all the representatives stressed the necessity of reinforcing Israel's power, along with the necessity of ensuring the future of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria," he said. "There has never been a more supportive government of Israel and the settlement movement."  

American officials have argued to settler leaders that public criticism is particularly inappropriate at this time, given that it comes while they handle the coronavirus crisis and the latest wave of racial justice protests in the United States.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announces commitment to negotiations with Palestinians under Trump's proposal, but on Tuesday, he told settler leaders that should annexation of West Bank lands be brought before the government or Knesset for approval, it would be promoted independently of the U.S. president's plan, according to sources familiar with the content of the meeting.

After the meeting, Netanyahu's office put out a statement that the prime minister is committed to negotiations with Palestinians under the Trump plan. This means that Netanyahu's commitment would be declarative rather than written into law.

Palestinian leaders have unequivocally rejected the plan proposed by the Trump administration, saying it is biased toward Israel, and called for international sanctions if Israel goes ahead with its plan for unilateral annexation.

As Netanyahu's target date of July 1 approaches for annexing West Bank lands, rifts and disagreements are emerging among Israeli settler leaders. Settler leaders are careful not to appear as though they totally reject the Trump plan. Instead, they are conveying that they expect the preconditions to be omitted and a greenlight for unilateral annexation while the future negotiations remain far off in the future.

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