Former Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu treated Trump ‘like a flowerpot’ at January 2020 rollout of Middle East peace plan, former official says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) speaks during a press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) speaks during a press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • A former Trump official said Netanyahu treated Trump “like a flower pot” at an event unveiling a peace plan. 
  • Journalist Barak Ravid details how the rollout of the plan soured White House-Israel relations in his book.
  • Trump and Jared Kushner were rankled by Netanyahu’s aggressive embrace of annexing the West Bank. 

A former Trump administration official said former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu treated former President Donald Trump “like a flowerpot” at the January 2020 joint press conference unveiling a peace deal in a book by journalist Barak Ravid, Ravid told the Forward in an interview. 

Ravid’s book “Trump’s Peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East” goes inside the at-times turbulent US-Israel relationship during the Trump years. Trump heavily emphasized cultivating a close relationship with Israel and then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and put his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who already had a previous relationship with Netanyahu, in charge of the White House’s Middle East relations.

A former Trump administration official told Ravid for the book that Netanyahu essentially used the US president as a prop for his own political gain ahead of Israel’s March 2020 elections. 

In early 2020, the Trump administration unveiled a “peace plan” for the Middle East. The so-called “Deal of the Century” involved no discussions with Palestinian leaders, and they promptly rejected it. Critics said it was misleading to call it a “peace plan,” dismissing it as little more than a PR stunt for Netanyahu ahead of an election. 

“There was no meaningful consultation with the Palestinians over the past two years, and the result is a plan that would be very difficult for any Palestinian leader to accept and defend to their people,” Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel under former President Barack Obama, told Insider at the time.

The plan, crafted by Kushner, overwhelmingly favored Israel on a number of contentious issues. Among other elements, the plan pledged to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, recognized Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank considered illegal under international law, and stipulated that Israel would provide for Palestine’s security (barring Palestine from having its own military).  

Trump and other White House officials were rankled by Netanyahu’s eager embrace of swift annexation of the West Bank, with Trump yelling “what the hell was that?” at his aides after Netanyahu left the White House, according to Ravid. 

As the Forward put it, “Netanyahu caused an uproar by suggesting the U.S. initiative was a green light for the annexation of the occupied West Bank.”

In interviews with Ravid for the book, Kushner recalled telling Netanyahu “this is not the plan,” and “there’s no way you are doing this” at the time.

Shortly after the January 28 joint press conference unveiling the Abraham Accords, the White House successfully convinced Israel to delay its annexation plans. Later that year, the White House also pushed for a deal for Israel to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates in exchange for further pushing back annexation. 

Later in June, Kushner warned Netanyahu that unilaterally pursuing annexation “will be the biggest mistake you have ever made, adding, “Trump will come out against you,” according to the book. 

The White House’s Middle East envoy Ari Berkowitz similarly put Netanyahu on notice that Trump wouldn’t come to the rescue if Netanyahu found himself in trouble for too aggressively pursuing annexation. Berkowitz, according to Ravid, told the former PM: “it’s almost certain Trump will tweet against you.”

Read the original article on Business Insider