Behind the scenes of the tweet that announced history

White House Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz had the honor of posting President Donald Trump’s tweet announcing a groundbreaking normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last Thursday, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner revealed in an interview published on Wednesday. 

“[Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications] Dan Scavino was sitting in the back, and he let Avi push the button,” Kushner detailed in an interview with Ami Magazine, a weekly print-only publication widely read in the Orthodox community. “Avi has been working around the clock, and it’s really an incredible deal. He did a great job, so we all thought it would be an honor for him to do that.”

The presidential tweet came after a 15-minute phone call between Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed. “HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!” A follow up tweet by Trump read. 

Kushner shared with the publication what went on behind the scenes in the Oval Office ahead of Trump’s public statement: “We made the call in the Oval Office with a bunch of people on our team who wanted to be there. After we hung up, everyone in the room started to applaud. Then the president stood up and started clapping too, because he realized that we were all clapping for peace. As we were getting ready to bring in the media, we sent out the tweet which was all set up and ready to go. Dan Scavino was sitting in the back and Avi pushed the button. Then we brought the press in and shared what had happened with the world.”

The White House senior advisor noted that this was the first time Trump had given someone from his wider team the permission to tweet out from his account. “The president never lets anyone do it. It’s always either the president or Dan [Scavino],” Kushner noted. 

Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also spoke to Ami, which featured them on the front cover as “the peacemakers.” 

The two seemed to offer differing views on the shelving of Netanyahu’s annexation plan as part of the U.A.E.-Israel accord. “The application of sovereignty to areas of the West Bank is something that our vision for peace accommodates, as we don’t fundamentally disagree with it,” Berkowitz told the magazine. “We believe that for the next few months it’s worthwhile to continue advancing the cause of peace and suspend the discussion about what the application of sovereignty and recognition by the United States would look like. We were in the middle of those discussions, and quite honestly we would still have some work to do should that path be opened up in the future.” 

The administration official suggested that Netanyahu “understands the historic achievement” of shifting gears away from his plan to annex parts of the West Bank and take the route of peace with the Arab world and “that for the foreseeable future the Israeli people are going to be excited about following that path.” 

Friedman, however, noted that the deal “doesn’t require that the sovereignty efforts that have begun be reversed. They’re just going to be delayed a little bit… We were on the path of support for the application of sovereignty to the settlements, and we were certainly moving along that path, when this opportunity came along. We had the intellectual flexibility to say, ‘Let’s shift gears a bit, because this is better.’” 

The ambassador also expressed his dismay at the ongoing political crisis in Israel. “The unity government hasn’t really created the unity I would have hoped for,” Friedman explained. “Jewish unity around the world is important, and Jewish unity within Israel is very important. I think we are still challenged in that regard, and because those political currents are still working their way through the system, those who see political advantages or disadvantages to making strong statements will continue to do so.”

This post has been updated to clarify Ambassador Friedman’s remarks on Israel’s political crisis.

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