Trump wanted to scrap peace plan unless Abbas approved - Kushner

Trump only wanted to proceed with Abbas’s approval even though Kushner explained that the logic of the deal was “heads you win, tails they lose.”

 Jared Kushner attends the funeral for Ivana Trump, socialite and first wife of former US President Donald Trump, in New York City, US, July 20, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)
Jared Kushner attends the funeral for Ivana Trump, socialite and first wife of former US President Donald Trump, in New York City, US, July 20, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)

Former US president Donald Trump nearly shelved his peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians at the last minute because the latter did not support it, contrary to what was presented as the plan’s unique logic, former White House senior advisor Jared Kushner wrote in a book set to be published later this month.

Kushner and then-ambassador to Israel David Friedman walked Trump through the parts of the plan and their expected reactions to it for over an hour. Kushner pointed out that the plan has the support of Netanyahu and now-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, his rival, though they were running in a contentious election.

Trump asked if the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to the plan, and Kushner said no.

“I have a lot of issues going on right now,” Trump said, according to Kushner. “And this is not my top priority. I don’t want to do anything if Abbas says no. Set up a call with him. I’ll be able to tell by his tone if there’s a chance. Otherwise, let’s wait to release the plan at a later date and not waste our time.”

"I don’t want to do anything if Abbas says no."

Former US president Donald Trump

Trump only wanted to proceed with Abbas’s approval even though Kushner explained that the logic of the deal was “heads you win, tails they lose,” as he called it, in that, if the Palestinians agreed, that would be “a huge win,” but in the much more likely scenario that they did not, “the Arab world will see that the Palestinians are unwilling to even come to the table to consider a plan with real compromises, including a path to a Palestinian state, and they will likely be more open to normalizing relations with Israel.”

 Former senior advisor to ex US president Donald Trump, Jared Kusner, his wife Ivanka Trump and head of Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu at an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on October 11, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Former senior advisor to ex US president Donald Trump, Jared Kusner, his wife Ivanka Trump and head of Opposition Benjamin Netanyahu at an event celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, in the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on October 11, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

By allowing the Palestinians to veto the plan entirely, Trump went against the idea that the Palestinians' rejection would reveal their intransigence, to Israel's advantage.

In an "unexpected but fortunate development," Abbas refused to take a call from Trump, saying he would only speak to the president after the peace plan was released.

After that, Kushner, who was in Davos for the World Economic Forum, cut his trip short early.

"I wanted to be near the Oval Office in the days that followed in case someone tried to change his mind and disrupt the launch," he wrote.

Kushner told Trump that Abbas refused to speak with him until after the plan came out, and they held a long discussion of the plan, at the end of which Trump said: "I trust you...If you think this is the right thing to do, let's do it."

Trump's peace plan led to Abraham Accords

Kushner also tells the widely-reported story of how Trump's peace plan led to the Abraham Accords.

But he notes that the United Arab Emirates Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba informed him more than a year before the accords, on May 26, 2019, that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) was ready to fully normalize relations with Israel.

At that time, Kushner wrote, "Israel had just finished its elections and was still forming a government. Until this was complete, Bibi wouldn't have time for diplomacy."

In June 2020, Otaiba published his op-ed Yediot Aharonot opposing annexation and dangling the possibility of normalization before the Israeli public.

Two weeks later just as the mapping committee was finishing its work towards annexation, MBZ called Kushner and said that moving forward on that front would reverse the progress on bringing Israel closer to its Arab neighbors.

"The two options - annexation or normalization - weighed heavily in my mind," Kushner said of his meeting with Friedman and Trump in which the president gave them the green light to proceed with sovereignty moves.

When Netanyahu declined to offer any concessions to the Palestinians, Kushner had Berkowitz propose normalization instead. Netanyahu was skeptical but willing to try.

Once the UAE was fully on board, Netanyahu made a counteroffer: He would only drop annexation if three countries normalize ties with Israel.

"I don't blame him for asking," Kushner told Berkowitz, "but it will be impossible to keep this a secret if we try to include other countries...Also, remind him that he doesn't have annexation without us."

Netanyahu almost called off the accords a second time, over internal politics, because a bill banning him from forming a government was going to a vote in the Knesset.

"I know Bibi will put what's best for Israel before his political situation. We've come too far; we're so close. This deal is happening," Kushner told then-Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.

During the process of finalizing the Abraham Accords, the UAE refused to speak directly with Israel, with Otaiba working primarily through Kushner and Berkowitz. Dermer told Kushner he found this frustrating.

Kushner also revealed that Bahrain's Finance Minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa called him the afternoon the Abraham Accords were announced to offer that his country be second.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was "impressed" by the Abraham Accords, Kushner said, but wanted to see how things went with the UAE and whether there was progress with the Palestinians. This runs counter to a narrative in the media at the time that MBS was a proponent of Saudi-Israel normalization, but was held back by King Salman who emphasized the country's traditional ties to the Palestinians.

After the Abraham Accords signing ceremony between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain was held on the White House South Lawn in September, Trump made a statement to journalists that "we have many other countries going to be joining us, and they’re going to be joining us soon. We’ll have, I think, seven or eight or nine.”

This came as a surprise to Kushner, which "forced [him] to start thinking ahead."

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