Former U.S. President Donald Trump was furious over then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to immediately annex the settlements, to the point that he even considered announcing support for Netanyahu’s main rival in the next election, Trump’s son-in-law reveals in his new book.
Jared Kushner, also a senior adviser to Trump, has written in his memoir “Breaking History” that when the Trump administration unveiled its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan at a gala White House event in January 2020, Netanyahu used the opportunity to announce his intention to immediately apply Israeli law to the settlements – something the administration opposed.
This speech embarrassed Trump and the officials from other countries who had been invited to the event; they all had expected to hear a conciliatory message. Upon leaving the gala, Trump told Kushner, “Bibi gave a campaign speech. I feel dirty.”
Kushner adds that Trump “asked me whether he should take the unusual step of endorsing the prime minister’s political rival, Benny Gantz,” who at that time headed the main opposition party.
The conflict over annexation marked the nadir of U.S.-Israeli relations during the Netanyahu-Trump era. While Kushner was working to promote Israeli relations with other Arab and Muslim states, Netanyahu was deep in domestic politics, fearing he would lose the upcoming election.
According to Kushner, Netanyahu began promoting annexation with the encouragement of David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel at the time. But Friedman hadn’t even informed senior administration officials about what he was telling Netanyahu, much less received their permission.
After Netanyahu announced his annexation plans, Kushner rushed to give media interviews in which he stressed that the administration didn’t support immediate annexation.
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Trump’s peace plan called for accelerated talks between Israel and the Palestinians lasting four years. During that time, construction in the settlements would be frozen, and at the end, a demilitarized Palestinian state would be established. Only at that point would Israeli law be applied to all existing West Bank settlements.
The plan also called for Jerusalem to be recognized as Israel’s undivided capital, while the Palestinian capital would be in Abu Dis just outside Jerusalem. In addition, the Palestinians would waive their demand that the refugees and their descendants be allowed to move to Israel. Finally, a tunnel would be built to link the West Bank with the Gaza Strip.