Dec 15, 2021 - World

Kushner kicked Israel's ambassador out of his office during annexation argument

Kushner (left) with Netanyahu. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/AFP via Getty

The following story is adapted from "Trump’s Peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East."

The unveiling of Trump's Middle East peace plan — and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's efforts to parlay the plan into unilateral annexations in the occupied West Bank — sparked weeks of tensions between the U.S. and Israeli governments.

Flashback: They culminated in a heated meeting that February in which Jared Kushner ejected Israel's ambassador to Washington from his office, according to two former senior White House officials.

  • We tell the whole story of Trump's failed peace plan and the chaotic origins of the Abraham Accords in a new season of the "How it Happened" podcast. Listen and subscribe.

The backstory: Donald Trump presented his plan in a White House ceremony on Jan. 28, 2020. The White House hoped to start mobilizing international support in order to push the plan ahead in a possible second Trump term.

  • The plan was widely viewed as highly favorable to Israel, but it was politically sensitive for Netanyahu with elections looming in March. Still, he couldn't outright say no to Trump.
  • Instead, Netanyahu promised during the ceremony to immediately annex the parts of the West Bank that the plan envisioned as part of Israel — an explosive proposal that would violate international law, but potentially provide Netanyahu an electoral landslide.
  • Kushner and the White House ultimately forced Netanyahu to back down and walk back his promise just hours later, in a major embarrassment for the prime minister.

Behind the scenes: The following weeks were the lowest point in relations between Trump and Netanyahu up to that point. Their advisers were hardly speaking, two former White House officials say.

  • In late February, Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer went to see Kushner at the White House and the frustrations from Jan. 28 were aired for the first time, the former White House officials say.
  • Dermer claimed the embarrassment Netanyahu had suffered would harm him in the elections.
  • Dermer said Netanyahu had made difficult promises in front of the whole world during an election campaign — and had done so with the understanding that the U.S. would support him on annexation.

Kushner pushed back, saying the Trump administration had done more for Israel than any previous administration.

  • “Don’t get confused thinking that what happened in the last three years was because of you. We did all that because we wanted to," Kushner said.
  • The Israeli ambassador fired back, saying Netanyahu didn't know if he could ever trust the Trump administration again.
  • "Get out," Kushner shouted, calling Dermer's remark "disgusting."

Worth noting: A former White House official told me Kushner liked Dermer and saw him as someone who kept Netanyahu's emotions in check, but on that day, “Dermer said things he shouldn’t have and Jared wasn’t in the mood to take it."

Go deeper:

Go deeper