Kushner Says Other Arab Countries Waiting to Follow UAE

YERUSHALAYIM -
White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks during a press briefing on the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates at White House in Washington, U.S., August 13, 2020. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

The historic peace agreement between Israel and the UAE brokered by the Trump administration continued to rivet world attention on Thursday night as further details emerged along with reactions both positive and negative.

Jared Kushner, adviser and son-in-law to U.S. President Donald Trump, offered his congratulations to the two countries, and noted that it was the result of “talks [that] have been going on for more than a year and half.”

Kushner indicated that similar talks with other Arab countries had been put on hold while matters were concluded with the UAE. “It was important to them to be first,” he said.

Now the way is clear for discussions with others to resume, he said, calling additional diplomatic ties an “inevitability.”

“At the end of the day, everybody wants to move forward,” he said.

When asked how long Israel has agreed to suspend annexation plans, Kushner replied that it will take a while for the peace deal to take effect,” according to Reuters.

Reflecting the atmosphere of elation following the announcement, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said he would “not be surprised” if President Donald Trump is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for the achievement.

“Today’s work is an example of why he would be rightly considered and should be a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize,” O’Brien said.

Meanwhile, reactions to the news have been fast and furious, not all of them congratulatory.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the agreement: “The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalize relations is hugely good news,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”

Egypt and Bahrain welcomed the agreement.

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin invited the leader of the United Arab Emirates to visit Yerushalayim.

The mayor of Tel Aviv decided to illuminate city hall with the colors of the UAE and Israeli flags. It’s becoming a Huldai trademark. Last week, he ordered the municipality lit up with the Lebanese flag in solidarity with the victims.

Reaction from the Israeli right wing was one of bitter disappointment after hopes had been raised of annexation of the Jewish communities of Yehuda and Shomron.

Former Defense Minister and Yamina party head Naftali Bennet said: “I bless the agreement and thank President Trump for his consistent actions on behalf of Israel. Israel has much to contribute to the region and it’s good that our policy making is no longer held hostage to the Palestininans’ stubborn opposition,” Bennett said.

“Together with this, it is unfortunate that Netanyahu missed a once-in-a-century opportunity to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, Ma’aleh Adumim, Beit El and the rest of Israeli communities in Yehuda and Shomron. It’s tragic that Netanyahu did not seize the moment. He did not apply sovereignty over one centimeter of the Land of Israel.

“But still the day will come when sovereignty will be applied, albeit from another source,” Bennett concluded.

The Palestinians were predictably unhappy with the news. Hamas and Islamic Jihad denounced it in typically violent terms.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called an emergency meeting to formulate a response.

The protracted negotiations between Israel and the UAE were kept very quiet; so much so that even senior officials such as Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi were kept uninformed, not learning of it until Thursday.

Netanyahu explained that “there was a request that we not include others, in order to prevent” those opposed from interfering. “Iran certainly was not interested in seeing it happen, and therefore it was agreed that it be kept quiet until it was ready to be announced. At the moment it was made public, I spoke with both of them [Gantz and Ashkenazi], and they have become partners [in the process] henceforth,” said Netanyahu.

Others volunteered their partnership. Finance Minister Israel Katz, who was briefly acting foreign minister and also visited Abu Dhabi several years ago as Transportation Minister, sought some of the credit, or as The Times of Israel put it, “congratulates himself for Israel and the UAE agreeing to normalize ties.”

“As foreign minister, I placed the goal of peace and normalization via strength with the Gulf States at the top of my agenda and got the prime minister’s blessing to advance the issue,” he revealed in a statement.

“I feel like I’ve made a historic and important contribution to Israel’s security and the bolstering of our regional standing.”