Former US President Trump Explicitly OK’ed Netanyahu Annexation Plan, Letter Reveals
Former US President Donald Trump greenlighted then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank to Israel in the framework of Trump’s “the deal of the century” peace plan. In a story first reported by The Jerusalem Post, a presidential letter to Netanyahu that The Post says it obtained from an unnamed source shows that the US president told the Israeli prime minister, two days before going public with the American peace plan, that the US would recognize the extension of Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank in exchange for acquiescing to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the remaining Palestinian territories.
The president urged Netanyahu to adopt “the policies outlined in … the Vision [for peace] regarding those territories of the West Bank identified as becoming part of a future Palestinian state,” President Trump wrote. “In exchange for Israel implementing these policies and formally adopting detailed territorial plans not inconsistent with the Conceptual Map attached to my Vision – the United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty in those areas of the West Bank that my vision contemplates as being part of Israel.”
The report directly contradicts the narrative being promoted by presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in his new book, Breaking History: A White House Memoir. Kushner writes there that Netanyahu only thought he could get the president’s backing because of assurances he received from then-US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, rather than an explicit statement from the chief executive, himself. Kushner asserts that Netanyahu’s announced annexation plan caught the White House off guard. But Netanyahu, through a spokesman, responded that “the charge that Prime Minister Netanyahu surprised the president and his staff with an uncoordinated announcement … is utterly baseless.”
Netanyahu’s version of events is further supported by Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, who said that while he worked for the administration, “he always understood from former Prime Minister Netanyahu that US recognition of the extension of Israel’s sovereignty over those areas intended to be part of Israel contemplated by the peace plan released by President Trump was necessary for Netanyahu to agree to our proposed peace plan. David Friedman was part of most, perhaps all, of those discussions and I believe he understood that clearly as well.” Greenblatt continues: “I was no longer working at the White House at the time the peace plan was released, so I do not know what might have changed; but given Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position on the issue throughout our discussions, I am not surprised Netanyahu believed that condition remained in place.”
In the end, the dispute is more academic than substantive; in an unforeseen development that opponents of Israeli expansion may regard as a deus ex machina – the prime minister had to choose between pursuing annexation and bringing Israeli ties with the pro-Western, mainly Sunni Arab states out into the open in the form of the Abraham Accords, and he chose the latter.