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John Bolton says Netanyahu doubted Kushner's ability to lead 'deal of the century'

Israeli PM's office disputes new book, saying 'Netanyahu has complete faith in Jared Kushner's abilities'
Kushner has played key role in drafting White House's Middle East plan for Israeli-Palestinian conflict (AFP/File photo)

Former US national security adviser John Bolton said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed doubts over advisor Jared Kushner's ability to lead the White House's Middle East plan, according to excerpts from his forthcoming memoir, The Room Where It Happened.

CNN reported on Thursday that in the book, Bolton claims Netanyahu "was dubious about assigning the task of bringing an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict to Kushner, whose family Netanyahu had known for many years.

"[Netanyahu] was enough of a politician not to oppose the idea publicly, but like much of the world, he wondered why Kushner thought he would succeed where the likes of [Henry] Kissinger had failed," Bolton wrote.

'Prime Minister Netanyahu has complete faith in Jared Kushner's abilities and resolve and rejects any description to the contrary'

- Netanyahu's office

Kushner, who had no prior experience in government policy or international affairs before the Trump presidency, has played a key role in drafting the White House's Middle East plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Released in January, the so-called "deal of the century" supports annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley in exchange for recognising a disjointed Palestinian state with no control over its borders or airspace.

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The Palestinian leadership has boycotted the idea, pronouncing it dead on arrival.

Trump's son-in-law has subsequently called the Palestinians "foolish" for rejecting the plan and has even advised them to "take a cold shower" and take a closer look at it.

'Kushner helped advance Israel-Arab relations'

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that he plans to move ahead with annexation by 1 July, despite widespread international condemnation.

On Tuesday, almost 50 UN human rights experts condemned the annexation plan, calling it a vision of "21st Century apartheid."

"What would be left of the West Bank would be a Palestinian Bantustan, islands of disconnected land completely surrounded by Israel and with no territorial connection to the outside world," the experts said, referring to the territories set out for Black people by South Africa's apartheid regime.

Since Bolton's revelation, Netanyahu's office issued a statement rejecting the allegation, saying Kushner had "helped advance Israel's relations with the Arab world".

Kushner tells Netanyahu to 'greatly slow' annexation process
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"Prime Minister Netanyahu has complete faith in Jared Kushner's abilities and resolve and rejects any description to the contrary," the statement reads.

"The US administration's Middle East team led by Kushner successfully formulated President Trump's principles into the Vision for Peace, offering the most realistic blueprint for peace in our region.

"With these accomplishments alone and under President Trump's leadership, Kushner has already achieved what others before him did not accomplish. We are confident that working together we can achieve the lasting and secure peace that we all desire."

Israel's Channel 13 news reported earlier this month that Kushner made a request to Netanyahu to "greatly slow" the annexation process, and "downplay enthusiasm" for it, as the US was still grappling with the coronavirus outbreak as well as nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd.

The Times of Israel reported last week that three large illegal settlements would be annexed on 1 July, with the Jordan Valley to be annexed in September.

Israeli officials told the newspaper that this "limited annexation" would be accepted by Netanyahu's coalition partner, Benny Gantz, as well as right-wing settler leaders who had previously expressed opposition to Trump's plan.

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