Kushner: Trump wanted to endorse Netanyahu's rival ahead of March 2020 election
Ahead of the Israeli election in March 2020, then-President Trump wanted to publicly endorse former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and then-senior adviser at the White House, writes in his new book.
Why it matters: Kushner's remarks are further evidence of how bad the relationship between the former U.S. president and the former Israeli prime minister was at the time.
- They also show how enthusiastic Trump was about Gantz after their Oval Office meeting on Jan. 27, 2020, a day before Trump released his peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Behind the scenes: Kushner writes in “Breaking History,” out Aug. 23, that the reason for Trump’s frustration at the time was Netanyahu’s speech at the unveiling ceremony for the plan.
- Trump announced his plan several weeks before the third consecutive election in Israel. Kushner writes that before the ceremony he told then-Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer that Netanyahu should give a speech that is “brief and above the politics of the day."
- But during his speech, Netanyahu announced that he would annex the Jordan Valley and all the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, surprising Trump and Kushner as it wasn't something the U.S. president had signed off on.
- “In both tone and substance the speech was way off the mark. It contained nothing conciliatory toward the Palestinians. It was essentially a campaign speech for his domestic political audience, and it misrepresented our plan," Kushner writes.
Kushner says he felt uncomfortable that the Arab ambassadors who attended the ceremony to support the U.S. plan heard the Israeli prime minister speaking about the annexation of the West Bank.
- “I had walked them through the peace proposal and given them my word that Trump would present a dignified and balanced proposal – one that required compromises on both sides. But that certainly wasn’t the deal Bibi was describing” "he writes.
Kushner describes how after the ceremony he was walking with Trump back to the Oval Office and the president expressed disappointment over Netanyahu's remarks. “Bibi gave a campaign speech, I feel dirty," Kushner quotes as Trump telling him.
- He writes that the day after Trump’s meeting with Gantz — a former General and IDF chief of staff — the president praised Netanyahu’s political rival and said he liked him very much.
- Kushner claims in the book that shortly before the Israeli elections in March 2020, Trump asked him “whether he should take the unusual step of endorsing Gantz."
- A former senior White House official told me on Sunday that Kushner and then-White House envoy Avi Berkowitz told Trump not to interfere and see how the Israeli election played out.
Flashback: In an interview Trump gave me in April 2021 for my book “Trump’s Peace,” he stressed he was disappointed with Netanyahu for being disloyal and congratulating President Biden on his victory in the 2020 elections. "I haven’t spoken to him since," Trump said of the former Israeli prime minister at the time. "F**k him."
What’s next: Trump is considering running for president in 2024 and Netanyahu is running in the upcoming election in Israel. In an interview with Newsmax in June, Trump said he was disappointed in Netanyahu but didn’t rule out endorsing him in the future.