US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Friday that normalized ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia were inevitable, following the US-brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates the day before.
Arab countries that are friendly to Israel welcomed the historic accord, but regional power Saudi Arabia has remained conspicuously silent following its announcement.
Saudi Arabia, like Israel and the UAE, shares Iran as a common foe and maintains close ties to Washington.
Kushner, who reportedly played a role in brokering the Israel-UAE agreement, said in an interview with CNBC on Friday that Saudi Arabia’s younger generation admired Israel and sought ties with the Jewish state.
“They see Israel as almost the Silicon Valley of the Middle East and they want to be connected to it as a trading partner, as a technology partner, as a security partner,” Kushner said of young Saudis.
The older generations, he said, were “still stuck in conflicts of the past,” and despite the country’s recent efforts toward modernization, “you can’t turn around a battleship overnight.”
Despite the opposition from some of the older generation, Kushner predicted that Thursday’s landmark deal would serve as a catalyst for opening ties between Israel and other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia.
“You can’t turn a battleship around overnight” White House senior advisor Jared Kushner tells CNBC’s @_HadleyGamble. The deal between Israel and the UAE to normalize diplomatic ties should be celebrated as a “historic step,” despite the lack of support from Saudi Arabia, he adds. pic.twitter.com/FVcSa5CWDx
— CNBC Middle East (@CNBCMiddleEast) August 14, 2020
“I do think we have other countries that are very interested in moving forward [with normalization] and as that progresses I do think that it’s an inevitability that Saudi Arabia and Israel will have fully normalized relations and they’ll be able to do a lot of great things together,” Kushner said.
Israel’s Channel 13 on Friday night quoted unnamed Arab sources saying the Saudis would likely “step up cooperation” with Israel in the wake of the UAE deal, though they were not expected to formally sign an accord at this stage.
It also said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed had worked together with President Trump on the UAE-Israel deal.
On Thursday, following the announcement of the deal, Kushner said it would likely be an “icebreaker” for other countries, and that the administration had also been in talks with other Arab states to normalize ties with Israel. He suggested that more announcements will come over the next 90 days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while hailing the deal on Thursday night, said it marked a “new era of Israeli relations with the Arab world,” and predicted other deals with Arab countries would follow.
Trump alluded to more diplomatic breakthroughs on Thursday, saying, “Things are happening that I can’t talk about.”
Senior Israeli officials reportedly said Thursday that they are in advanced talks with Bahrain about normalizing ties. A senior American official also said that Oman was in the mix, according to a report from the Kan public broadcaster.
Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, called Bin Zayed to congratulate him on the deal following its announcement, the Ynet news site reported, citing Arabic media reports.
The king called the deal “a historic Emirati achievement that will lead to peace with Israel and strengthen efforts toward peace and stability in the Middle East,” adding that the halt to annexation would preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and help achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced their agreement Thursday afternoon. They “agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE,” they said in a joint statement with the US that was released by Trump.
The UAE-Israel deal marks the third such agreement the Jewish state has struck with an Arab country after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).
Israeli and UAE delegations will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security and the establishment of reciprocal embassies, their statement said. In exchange for the accord, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.