Trump’s peace negotiator Avi Berkowitz says ‘peace changes the situation.’
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
In his first public interview in Israeli media, President Donald Trump’s special advisor Avi Berkowitz said Thursday that the issue of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria was “still on the table” and that the future of peace talks might depend on the Trump administration winning a second term.
Berkowitz said that people underrated Trump and that there could indeed be another peace announcement before the Nov. 3 elections.
“With President Trump there’s always a chance. He manages to do things that people think are impossible,” Berkowitz told Israel Army Radio.
“We’re obviously in the middle of negotiations with numerous other Arab countries but out of respect to those negotiations I try not to get too far ahead of them … these agreements have long-term significance,” Berkowitz said, adding that “we are in conversations with between 5 and 10 countries”
New peace deals are “a function of when, not if,” emphasized Berkowitz, whose official title is White House Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.
“They’re willing, they’re excited. I think the veto that the Palestinians have had for, honestly, decades, is gone, and the question is really can we get to the right place,” he said, admitting that next week’s U.S. presidential election was influencing the peace talks.
“A significant component … is knowing that they are going to be working with the Trump administration for a long period of time, and so obviously timing is a very important function.”
Asked if he was concerned that the Trump Administration would still be in office in January, Berkowitz replied in Hebrew: “That’s one of the problems.”
“We’re working through these things. Peace deals come when they come. They don’t come earlier, they don’t come later,” he said, adding that the UAE brought a “significant momentum” that quickly pulled Bahrain into recognizing Israel.
Berkowitz said the decision to postpone the implementation of Israeli sovereignty over settlements in Judea and Samaria was not permanent.
“It is not off the table, but what we have said throughout is there was a significant opportunity that came (up) before us” of normalizing relations between Israel and the UAE, and at the same time the U.S. was talking with other Arab countries.
“We knew that there were significant opportunities beyond even the UAE deal and it was important for us to say: ‘look, that is something that can be done at a later period of time, it is not something we disagree with.'”
“The components of the president’s vision for peace … it is something that is in our plan, it is something that we stand behind, but because of the opportunity [for peace] that was in front of us, we wanted to really grab it.”
Berkowitz played down what he termed the unfortunate “excitement” surrounding the possibility of a future U.S. sale of advanced F-35 stealth bombers to the UAE, saying it was never part of the peace negotiations.
“Of course, peace does change the calculus and therefore makes it more possible,” noting that the sale was still not a done deal. “It can happen only if it does not put Israel’s security in jeopardy in any way.”
He said the F-35 issue takes attention away from “the reality, which is this is a peace that’s going to create tremendous opportunity.”
When reporter Efi Triger asked how a nice young Jewish boy Berkowitz ended up in the West Wing working with the president, Berkowitz chuckled and replied in Hebrew: “A lot of luck and the help of the Holy One Blessed be He.”