Dermer echoes Netanyahu, rejects Kushner claim that Trump caught unawares over sovereignty deal

An exchange of letters between the two leaders shows that Trump committed to a sovereignty plan in exchange for Israel’s support of the U.S. peace plan, the former envoy said. 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer has rejected ex-White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s claim that then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared plans to extend sovereignty over Judea and Samaria in 2020 had not been coordinated with the U.S.

Dermer joined both Netanyahu and former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman in questioning Kushner’s account of the situation as told in his memoir, in which he claimed that Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would apply Israeli law over Judea and Samaria  came as a shock to him and former president Donald Trump.

According to Dermer, in an exchange of letters between the two leaders, Trump committed to backing a sovereignty plan for 30% of Judea and Samaria in exchange for an Israeli commitment to Trump’s peace plan, known as Vision for Peace. As part of that, Israel would be required to “formally adopt detailed territorial plans” in keeping with the map of the peace plan, Times of Israel reported, and agree not to engage in construction in Jewish communities that would become part of a future Palestinian state.

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“If Trump was surprised [by the annexation announcement], he shouldn’t have been surprised because he should have been informed of what he was signing,” Dermer said on a podcast produced by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.

“In those letters, it is clear that the U.S. is going to back Israel’s move to apply its laws to the territory that the Trump plan designated as part of Israel in the future — which is 30% of the territory of Judea and Samaria. And Israel, in exchange, would embrace the Trump peace plan, which ultimately calls for a two-state solution, and also contort its policies so that the territory that would be designated for a future Palestinian state would basically be left untouched for a minimum of four years,” Dermer said.

“It was also clear in Netanyahu’s response [letter] to President Trump that he was going to move forward with this decision… in the coming days,” Dermer added.

However, when Netanyahu announced the sovereignty plan in a speech on January 28, 2020, he had made no “formal adoption” of the peace plan to date.

In his forthcoming book, Breaking History: A White House Memoir, Kushner details hearing Netanyahu’s speech in which he  “misrepresented our plan” to the point that he found himself “grabb[ing] my chair so intensely that my knuckles turned white.”

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“Under our plan, we would eventually recognize Israel’s sovereignty over agreed­-upon areas if Israel took steps to advance Palestinian statehood within the territory we outlined,” Kushner wrote, adding that applying sovereignty would take time.

A furious Kushner then ordered Friedman to tell Netanyahu that the U.S. had not given the green light for sovereignty, which forced the Israeli leader to walk back his jubilant declaration.

Kushner did not mention the letters, which, Dermer argued last week, would have clarified matters.

Kushner “read both of those letters clearly, so why he would think anything else?” said Dermer.

“Trump signed the letter, and that was the basis for Netanyahu to come to Washington,” Dermer added, saying that Netanyahu would not have supported a peace plan in the middle of an election campaign without a major incentive like the sovereignty deal.

Dermer said that the Trump administration ultimately “backtracked” from its commitment to the sovereignty deal.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu earlier this month said Kushner’s account was “completely false,” pointing to the exchange of letter between Trump and the former Israeli premier.

But a source close to Kushner told Times of Israel that they weren’t surprised Dermer and Netanyahu shared similar accounts of what prevailed, since both of them relied on Friedman for their information, who, he claimed “went rogue” and wasn’t representing the Trump administration’s wishes.

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Friedman, for his part, rejected Kushner’s account, saying: “Jared and I have different recollections of those hectic days. But we agree that we reconciled our differences in a manner that best served the U.S.-Israel relationship.”