WASHINGTON - A new book chronicling U.S. President Donald Trump's rise to power and first year in office presents Israel as a major point of contention between two of the president's closest advisors – Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. Details regarding the Trump administration's internal debate in Israel are revealed in Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House." The book, which is currently at the center of a political storm, also details casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson's behind-the-scenes involvement on this issue.
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Adelson is the owner of the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, widely considered a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is known for his strong right-wing positions on Israel. During the 2016 U.S. election, he was one of the most significant donors to Trump's presidential campaign. Wolff's new book states that Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief political adviser, was "the only person" in the White House that Adelson "trusted on Israel."
According to the book, Bannon was pushing to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Trump's first day in office. He also wanted to finally kill the two-state solution by announcing that Jordan will take back the West Bank and Egypt will assume control over the Gaza Strip. In the book's first chapter, he is quoted telling Roger Ailes, former head of Fox News, this plan, adding that Adelson, Trump and Netanyahu were all "on board" with the idea.
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The U.S. Embassy was not moved on Trump's first day in office. In fact, almost a year later, the president has yet to move it, and has signed two presidential waivers, each delaying the move by half a year. With regard to Bannon's plan on the West Bank and Gaza, it is highly unlikely that Jordan and Egypt would agree, since both countries are already dealing with many other internal problems and would not benefit from taking millions of Palestinian under their control.
Later in the book, Wolff details how Trump decided to give Kushner, his son-in-law, responsibility over the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations portfolio, and how this immediately created tension between Kushner and Bannon over competing over who is "better" for Israel – from a right-wing policy point of view. This competition was part of a larger feud between the two senior aides over the direction of the Trump presidency, with Bannon pushing the agenda of the far-right and Kushner pushing for a more "normal" Republican way of governing.
"One of Bannon’s accusations against Kushner, the administration’s point person on the Middle East, was that he was not nearly tough enough in his defense of Israel," Wolff writes, adding that the accusations were a "complicated and frustrating business" for Kushner. Wolff also writes that "Bannon did not hesitate to ding Kushner on Israel, that peculiar right-wing litmus test. Bannon could bait Jews – globalist, cosmopolitan, liberal Jews like Kushner – because the farther right you were, the more correct you were on Israel."
According to Wolff, "Bannon’s effort to grab the stronger-on-Israel label was deeply confounding to Kushner, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew. For Kushner, Bannon’s right-wing defense of Israel, embraced by Trump, somehow became a jujitsu piece of anti-Semitism aimed directly at him. Bannon seemed determined to make Kushner appear weak and inadequate – a cuck, in alt-right speak."
Wolff adds: "on Israel, Bannon had partnered with Sheldon Adelson, titan of Las Vegas, big-check right-wing contributor, and, in the president’s mind, quite the toughest tough-guy Jew (that is, the richest)."
According to the book, Adelson came out in Bannon's defense when Trump considered firing him last summer, at one point telling the president that the far-right adviser was "the only person he trusted on Israel" in the Trump White House. Later, the book also touches on Adelson's decision to support a campaign orchestrated by Bannon against Trump's National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, claiming that he was hostile to Israel.
Eventually, Bannon was fired from the White House and lost the president's faith, while McMaster is still a senior member of the administration – perhaps proving some possible limits to Adelson's influence.
In the book, Wolff describes a conversation between Bannon and one of his own closest advisers, in which Bannon is quoted saying that Kushner's father, billionaire Charles Kushner, is worried that the FBI investigation into the Trump-Russia connection will somehow lead the investigators to his family's finances.
The full paragraph reads: "'Charlie Kushner,' said Bannon, smacking his head again in additional disbelief. 'He’s going crazy because they’re going to get down deep in his shit about how he’s financed everything. The rabbis with the diamonds and all the shit coming out of Israel and all these guys coming out of Eastern Europe all these Russian guys and guys in Kazakhstan. And he’s frozen on 666 [Fifth Avenue], when it goes under next year, the whole thing’s cross-collateralized he’s wiped, he’s gone, he’s done, it’s over. Toast.'"
The book, released on Friday, became an instant bestseller upon its release. Trump has dismissed the book on Saturday, calling it a "really boring and untruthful book" in a Tweet. He added that Wolff "used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!"
Later on Saturday, Trump said in a tweet that his "two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart," further calling himself "a very stable genius."