Kushner: Trump admin threatened to allow sanctions if Israel annexed parts of West Bank

"[Benjamin Netanyahu] risked near-unanimous condemnation at the United Nations," wrote Kushner.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

 The Trump administration threatened not to block international sanctions on Israel if former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu unilaterally annexed parts of the West Bank, former White House senior advisor Jared Kushner wrote in his tell-all book set to be published later this month.

"With annexation, Bibi risked near-unanimous condemnation at the United Nations," Kushner wrote of the efforts to convince Netanyahu to make concessions to the Palestinians along with extending sovereignty. "And if he went forward unilaterally, there was no guarantee that our administration would block the international sanctions against Israel that might follow."

In June 2020, four months after the Trump administration presented its "Vision for Peace” between Israel and with the Palestinians, American and Israeli teams had prepared a detailed map of where Israel would extend its sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Then-ambassador to Israel David Friedman sought former president Donald Trump’s approval to proceed, while Kushner felt that Netanyahu was not prepared to make sufficient concessions.

"If he went forward unilaterally, there was no guarantee that our administration would block the international sanctions against Israel that might follow."

Jared Kushner

Kushner recounted that in 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "assured me that if I could get a map out of Israel 'we will be flexible and everything else will be easy.'" However, Kushner did not think the map alone was enough, and said the administration was "struggling to convince Bibi [Netanyahu], a master negotiator, to agree to a compromise that would give tangible life improvements to the Palestinians."

Friedman and Kushner's account

In Friedman’s memoir Sledgehammer, released earlier this year, he said that he thought Netanyahu agreeing to a four-year period in which Israel refrain from any construction outside of the zones detailed on the map “was the essential peace to the puzzle.” Kushner did not mention that arrangement in the excerpt provided to The Jerusalem Post.

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands with U.S. President Donald Trump after signing the Abraham Accords (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER) Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands with U.S. President Donald Trump after signing the Abraham Accords (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)

“I told Friedman that I wasn’t going to bring the annexation issue to the president unless we had a fair proposal that advanced our peace plan,” Kushner wrote.

Friedman and Kushner met with Trump, and the ambassador asked the president if he was ready to support annexation. Trump said he had done plenty for Israel and had other priorities, but was willing to hear the opinions of the others in the room.

Kushner said, "I thought we could do it in a way that minimized backlash from the Arab world, but we had to ensure that the Israelis made concessions to materially improve the lives of the Palestinian people."

At the end of the meeting, Trump told then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo to "do what you think is best." Pompeo and Friedman wanted to move forward and while Kushner felt "inner turmoil about the implications," they decided to move forward with annexation.

Friedman and then-special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz told Netanyahu on June 25 that Israel could only annex areas with existing settlements, and in exchange, Palestinians would have greater civil control over some areas in which they lived. Two days later, Netanyahu refused.

"Our message resonated: Bibi wasn't getting annexation for free. Israel needed to give something in return," Kushner wrote. Trump would likely publicly speak out against annexation if Netanyahu did not compromise.

That was when Friedman made clear that Netanyahu was “hanging on a thread by Trump,” and “there was no guarantee that our administration would block the international sanctions against Israel that might follow” unilateral annexation, Kushner said.

Kushner's first foray 

Ironically, Kushner's first major plunge into the waters of international relations came when president-elect Trump's team tried to deal with the fallout of the Obama administration deciding not to block a UN resolution that was much less severe than sanctions.

Kushner called the Obama administration's decision not to block UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which stated that Israeli claims in the West Bank had "no legal validity" and were "a flagrant violation of international law," an "unprecedented abandonment of Israel" that would threaten future peace efforts.

In a chapter of his book focused mostly on Steve Bannon’s chaotic tenure as an adviser to Trump, Kushner described their intensive efforts to change the tide. Despite a 48-hour marathon of phone calls convincing other countries to change their votes, the resolution passed 14-0.

More excerpts of Kushner’s book will be released on JPost.com on Tuesday and Friday.