Kushner, Berkowitz: We Were the Most Pro-Israel U.S. Administration

YERUSHALAYIM -
david friedman
President Donald Trump, accompanied by, from left, U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook, Avi Berkowitz, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, smiles in the Oval Office at the White House, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Less than a month before President Donald Trump is set to leave the White House, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz spoke to Yisrael Hayom in a joint interview about their experiences as members of the Trump administration over the past four years.

“We were the most pro-Israel administration that I can think of,” Kushner said to Yisrael Hayom in Morocco, “but we were also the most pro-Arab/Muslim. We built trust by standing with our allies and partners. President Trump earned the trust of the people in the region and that gave us the credibility to advance our initiatives.”

He said that one of the projects he “most enjoyed working on are the Abraham Accords, which saw four peace deals between Israel, the UAE [United Arab Emirates], Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.”

Berkowitz, who replaced Jason Greenblatt in his position just over a year ago, recalled how he had realized while taking a photo of the flight path on Trump’s first flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel in 2017 that a breakthrough could be made between the countries.

“That showed us that even then, things didn’t have to be the way they were. The privilege I had of working on the Abraham Accords later on has proven that.”

The two said that it was precisely because the Trump administration did not belong to the establishment that they were able to be more creative in their thinking, which resulted in far-reaching steps like the U.S. recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital. Berkowitz added that they had heard from regional leaders of their desire to normalize ties with Israel four years ago.

He said that from the onset, “Arab leaders said they want to make peace, but the difficulty was getting out what we heard behind the scenes. Hearing and seeing today what I have known all these years … will impact millions of Israelis.”

Berkowitz said that “even if my time in the administration comes to an end, I feel good about the nations coming together and getting to know one another, that new kosher restaurants will be opening in Morocco, and that this will continue even after I am no longer in the administration.”

Commenting on the Trump administration’s so-called “Deal of the Century” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Kushner said, “The plan is the most detailed and realistic opportunity to resolve the conflict in decades. In my opinion, it’s the only viable plan that actually could improve the lives of the Palestinian people. I think in time people will review the plan and appreciate its merits. But it also was extremely helpful to advance the Abraham Accords. By putting out a fair plan that Israel was willing to negotiate on, a lot of leaders in the Arab world saw that it’s not Israel that is unwilling to compromise for peace. That helped break the logjam and start substantive conversations on normalization with numerous Arab countries.”

As for the administration’s apparent change of heart on supporting the application of Israeli sovereignty in Yehudah and Shomron, Kushner said, “Ultimately it was something we were willing to do and are not against. We are very proud of the plan laid out by President Trump. That being said, the opportunity to normalize Israel with numerous Arab countries was too large to overlook. So we suspended that plan in favor of four peace deals, and have been in contact with additional Arab and Muslim countries.”

When asked what advice he would give President-elect Joe Biden on Iran, Kushner said, “The Middle East is in a much safer place than the one we inherited. That’s because President Trump stood with our allies in the region. It’s important to be patient when negotiating and not rush in towards a bad deal. America has a lot of priorities in the world,” and Iran will call if and when they are ready to make a real deal, he said.