Netanyahu to Kushner: We had a little event last night

The "economic workshop" in Bahrain is meant to discuss the economic aspects of the Trump peace deal without unveiling any of the political components.

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May 30, 2019 21:30
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at his residence with Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Bria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at his residence with Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Some 12 hours after losing his mandate to form the next government and sending the country to new elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with senior Trump administration officials Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in his Jerusalem residence on Thursday to discuss Washington’s diplomatic moves.

“How’s everything?” asked Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, after greeting the prime minister with a hug.

“Interesting,” Netanyahu replied.

In a brief statement before the talks that went on for some three hours, Netanyahu referred to last night’s political drama as a “little event.”

“It’s always a great pleasure to welcome Jared Kushner to Israel, to Jerusalem, to discuss our common efforts for prosperity, security and peace,” he said. “I have to say I am tremendously encouraged by everything I hear, and about how President Trump, the United States, is working to bring allies together in the region against common challenges, but also to seize common opportunities.

“Even though we had a little event last night, it is not going to stop us,” Netanyahu continued. “We are going to continue working together. We had a great, productive meeting that reaffirms that the alliance with the United States of America has never been stronger, and is going to get stronger.”

Kushner made no mention of the current political crisis, agreeing with Netanyahu that the relationship between the two countries has never been stronger, saying, “We are very excited about all the potential that lies ahead for Israel, the relationship and the region.”

Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer also joined the meeting, as did Brian Hook – the US special envoy on Iran – and Kushner’s deputy Avi Berkowitz.

Greenblatt is set to speak at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, on June 16.

This is the third and final leg of a quick Mideast trip that took the US delegation to Morocco and Jordan to try and win their backing and participation in the “economic workshop” the US is planning in Bahrain next month. That workshop will be the first phase of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century.”

The new Israeli election campaign, however, has cast doubt on whether the US will put forward the political component of the long-awaited plan at a time when Netanyahu and Israel are once again in full election campaign mode.

Reuters quoted a US official on Thursday saying that the administration will go ahead with its Bahrain conference in late June, and that the political component of the plan will be released “when the timing is right.”

Trump addressed the political situation in Israel in comments to reporters.

“It’s too bad what happened in Israel,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Thursday, during a short press gaggle. “It looked like a total win for Netanyahu, who is a great guy. And now they are back at the debate stage, and they are back at the election stage. That is too bad because they don’t need this. They got enough turmoil over there. It’s a tough place. I feel very badly about that.”

It is the second time this week that the president addressed the political situation in Israel. Earlier this week when Netanyahu was still negotiating with his partners, Trump tweeted that he hopes to see the prime minister form a new coalition.

“Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi, and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “A lot more to do!”

Netanyahu read the tweet during a live televised statement in which he underscored the need to form a coalition before the deadline.

The two leaders have a strong personal bond. Two months ago during the final stage of the elections in Israel, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a move that many consider was a personal gesture to Netanyahu in the midst of a tough reelection campaign.

The Likud had a huge poster made featuring the two leaders shaking hands and smiling, with the slogan “Netanyahu – it’s a different league” placed over the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. Trump later shared a photo of the poster on his Instagram account.

During his comments slamming Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday night, Netanyahu held up a US State Department map that Kushner gave him at their meeting earlier in the day showing the Golan Heights as part of Israel. It was signed by Trump, who wrote: “Nice.”

Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.


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