Kushner: Netanyahu Axed Annexation in Exchange for Triple Normalization


Jared Kushner meets with then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s office in Yerushalayim. (Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

Two years after the Abraham Accords were signed, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and confidant of former President Donald Trump, has written a book in which he reveals new details about the historic Middle East breakthrough.

In Breaking History: A White House Memoir, due to be published on Aug. 23, Kushner says that he received news that the United Arab Emirates wanted to recognize Israel a year before Trump, then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Crown Prince of the UAE Mohammed Ben Zayed (MBZ) first discussed the matter in a phone call.

According to Kushner, UAE Ambassador to Washington, Yousef al Otaiba, met with him secretly at the White House on May 26, 2019 and told him that MBZ had asked him to “personally deliver” an important message – that he was ready to move forward with recognition of and full normalization with Israel. Kushner writes that the envoy told him that U.S. efforts had “changed the face” of the Middle East region, and based on the trust that had been built, the Emiratis wanted to be “the first” to normalize with Israel.

Al Otaiba reportedly added that the step was a dangerous one for the UAE and could open his country up to harsh criticism.

Kushner goes on to describe the hard decision that had to be made between Israel moving ahead with a decision to apply sovereignty to Yehudah and Shomron, which the Trump administration had promised to support, or Middle East normalization, as the Emiratis had threatened to take the later off the table if Israel proceeded with annexation. Kushner also says that he personally and the Trump administration as a whole were “committed” to Israeli sovereignty in Yehudah and Shomron, and that a mapping committee charged with laying out the future borders had completed its task.

Kushner’s claims align with a theory posed by former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, as well as a probe by Yisrael Hayom into Israel’s decision to drop the application of sovereignty over the Green Line.

Kushner writes that a year later, on June 25, 2020, special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz and then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with Netanyahu in Israel. According to Kushner, Berkowitz had been given the job of finishing the border mapping, which he said would achieve the goal of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kushner writes that the U.S. proposal was “fair” – Israel would annex only areas where there was already settlements, and in exchange, Palestinians would receive control over some areas of Yehudah and Shomron that were already home to Palestinians. This idea, he says, would have allowed Netanyahu to declare sovereignty in disputed areas. However, Kushner says that three days into the talks, Netanyahu rejected the U.S. proposal, and Kushner felt unable to recommend the counter-offer to Trump.

After the talks about Israeli sovereignty failed, Kushner writes, a series of consultations with the UAE began. Kushner says that at first, the Emiratis wanted partial normalization, on the condition that Israel gave up the idea of annexation, but Berkowitz said that partial normalization would not be enough. The idea of full peace with Israel was put on the table.

Kushner writes that on July 2, al Otaiba arrived at his office and laid out the Emirati proposal – full normalization in exchange for Israel shelving annexation of Yehudah and Shomron. At this point, he says, Netanyahu dug in his heels and insisted that he would forgo annexation only if Israel could normalize with three Arab countries.

Israel, the U.S., and the UAE proceeded to enter intensive negotiations, with Kushner and Berkowitz relaying messages between Israel and the Emiratis. Kushner describes the talks as “tough,” and says that they nearly imploded on more than one occasion.

Ten days of round-the-clock talks, Kushner reveals, led to over 100 versions of a draft peace agreement. Because both sides grasped the importance of the document, he says, they scrutinized every word as if it were a matter of “life or death.”

One of the most difficult arguments was over the exact terminology that would describe Israel holding back on applying sovereignty in Yehudah and Shomron. But Kushner says that on Aug. 7, 2020, a week before the three leaders spoke on the phone, he decided to bring the matter to a close, and sent Berkowitz to deliver the message to both sides that the U.S. was not in the business of diplomacy, but the business of “results.”

According to Kushner, difficulties continued until the phone conversation between Trump, Netanyahu, and MBZ on Aug. 13, 2020. This is when U.S. Gen. Miguel Correa entered his office and told Kushner that the deal should be called the “Abraham Accords” – the first time anyone had proposed a name for them.

Kushner said that everyone involved recognized that the name was perfect and would remind all sides of the Abrahamic roots that united the Arab and Israeli peoples.

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