Netanyahu denies story, says he 'voiced great appreciation'

In book, Kushner says Netanyahu was unenthusiastic on Jerusalem recognition

In upcoming memoir, former US President’s son-in-law said to claim Trump considered nixing the move given the PM’s cool response

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a press conference at the prime minister's Jerusalem residence on December 21, 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a press conference at the prime minister's Jerusalem residence on December 21, 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior advisor to former US president Donald Trump, reveals in an upcoming book that when Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there in 2017, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction was decidedly tepid.

The book, “Breaking History: A White House Memoir,” is set to be published on August 23 but was posted on a Saudi website earlier this week and reveals Netanyahu’s cool response almost sabotaged the plan.

The book says that in a phone call before the official announcement, Trump informed Netanyahu of the move, but the former premier simply responded: “If you choose to do that, I will support you.” Kushner wrote that a confused Trump, who had expected an exuberant reaction, repeated himself, to which Netanyahu again “responded with less-than-expected enthusiasm.”

“Trump began to second-guess his decision… [he] wondered aloud why he was taking this risk if the Israeli prime minister didn’t think it was that important,” Kushner wrote, and claimed Trump then told the former premier: “Bibi, I think you are the problem.”

Netanyahu “cooly countered” by explaining he was part of the solution. However, Kushner wrote he could see that Trump was visibly “frustrated.”

Kushner did not say why he thought Netanyahu responded as he did.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that “Contrary to the claims, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who asked President Trump to move the embassy several times, voiced great appreciation for this decision.

“President Trump said to Prime Minister Netanyahu before making the decision: ‘Some of my people say this step will be dangerous for the US. What do you think?’ Netanyahu responded that he did not see any real danger and that there was no reason not to move the embassy.

“It is doubtful that the embassy would have been moved had Netanyahu answered the president otherwise.”

Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since its founding in 1948, although much of the international community does not recognize it, as under the initial UN Partition Plan, Jerusalem was to be an international city.

Senior Adviser to the US President Jared Kushner (right) speaks as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman looks on at the official opening ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, when he announced plans to move the embassy there. In May 2018, his administration opened the new facility — a move that was met with intense controversy, both in Washington and in the Middle East.

Following the move the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, cut ties with Washington, calling the Trump administration biased toward Israel.

At the time, Trump said that the decision was made to advance US interests and peace in the region, and out of respect for Israel’s sovereignty.

Kushner’s book also revealed that Trump was annoyed by an extended three-hour meal he attended with Netanyahu during his visit in 2017.

“It was beautiful, but every time I thought the meal would end, another course would come out,” Trump apparently told Kushner, and complained that the then-prime minister “was talking my ear off.”

Netanyahu and Trump maintained a good relationship for the duration of his time in office, until Trump felt betrayed by Netanyahu when he congratulated current US President Joe Biden on his election win in 2020.

Kushner is married to Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka and served as an adviser to the White House. He played a significant role in the previous administration’s Middle East policy, participating in a diplomatic push that resulted in the Abraham Accords — a peace deal that resulted in Israel forming diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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