Friedman Pushed Netanyahu to Annex, Then Kushner Stepped In

A demonstrative shrug by a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s entourage on the plane home from his visits to Washington and Moscow pretty much said it all on Thursday.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 59

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Reporters aboard the plane asked what had changed between the bombastic statements about annexing all the settlements as early as next week’s cabinet meeting, and the ice-cold water poured on it by the White House on Wednesday. “I hope nothing has changed,” he replied.

Later, a tortuous explanation was offered. It was all just a “technical problem.” According to another senior official aboard the plane, who was asked to explain the confusion, Israel wanted to annex the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the West Bank settlements as a kind of first instalment, and then, in a second wave, the areas around those settlements, for a total area of 30 percent of the West Bank. “But the Americans only want it all in one go, and this will take time.”

Obviously, this “technical” explanation doesn’t reflect the whole reality. In numerous briefings and interviews in recent days, senior U.S. officials – including current and former members of the “peace team” headed by Jared Kushner – made it clear that there’s a more fundamental problem: Netanyahu’s rush to annex is ruining the launch of the plan on which they labored for three years. Immediate annexation wasn’t their intention. And the announcement wasn’t even coordinated with them.

– GZERO Media

.@jaredkushner: The US does not support Israel immediately annexing settlements.

More from @IanBremmer's White House interview:

— GZERO Media (@gzeromedia) January 30, 2020

The story gets even more intricate. According to Israeli and American sources, the person urging Netanyahu to annex straight away was none other than U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – a generous donor to the settlement enterprise, who has often seemed more like Netanyahu’s ambassador than Donald Trump’s. According to these officials, he did this without Kushner’s knowledge, and not for the first time.

Friedman, Netanyahu and their associates briefed Israeli journalists about the plan in a way that emphasized annexation while downplaying elements altogether less satisfactory to the right – like the establishment of a Palestinian state in the remaining 70 percent of the West Bank, connected to the Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. For the next four years at least, Israel will be forbidden to change the status quo in that area, in order to give the Palestinians time to change their mind and enter negotiations.

It looks like Trump, as he once told Netanyahu – a remark dismissed in Israel at the time as a slip of the tongue – really does like the two-state solution better.