Kushner: I've given it my all...I've never been more hopeful

On eve of 1st UAE flight, PM claims Palestinians can’t ‘veto’ Israel-Arab peace

Visiting Jerusalem before heading to Emirates with US and Israeli delegations, Jared Kushner says Trump is ‘writing a script for a new Middle East’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and White House adviser Jared Kushner make joint statements to the press about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords, in Jerusalem, Sunday, August 30, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and White House adviser Jared Kushner make joint statements to the press about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords, in Jerusalem, Sunday, August 30, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)

Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates will pave the way for treaties with more Arab countries since it has removed the “Palestinian veto” on peace between the Jewish state and the Arab world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, as he hosted senior American officials who brokered the historic deal between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi.

Netanyahu spoke Sunday during a press conference alongside US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, a day before a US-Israeli delegation including Kushner is set to take the first-ever Israeli commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi to put the Israeli-UAE normalization deal into practice.

Kushner echoed the assertion that other Arab and Muslim states would make peace with Israel and said that Trump, his father-in-law, was “writing a script for a new Middle East.”

The August 13 Israel-UAE diplomatic breakthrough “will pave the way for other countries to normalize their ties with Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I think for too long the Palestinians have had a veto on peace. Not only between Israel and the Palestinians but between Israel and the Arab world.”

“If we have to wait for the Palestinians, we would have to wait forever. No longer,” he said. The Palestinians, when they realize that their veto has dissipated, “will be hard pressed to remain outside the community of peace,” he added.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, left, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and White House adviser Jared Kushner make joint statements to the press about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords, in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)

Palestinian leaders have sharply criticized the UAE for agreeing to normalize relations with Israel, calling the move despicable and a betrayal.

Recalling that Kushner had been ridiculed for suggesting this process could happen, Netanyahu said the critics have been proved “dead wrong.” “We know that reality has changed,” Netanyahu said, “because we have changed it.”

Turning to Iran, Netanyahu hailed the Trump administration for showing “true global leadership” by opposing Tehran’s “war machine” and for pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal limiting the Iranian nuclear program.

Warning that if Iranians ever got nuclear weapons they would “promptly scupper the peace,” Netanyahu said: “We must never let that happen.”

O’Brien said Israel’s security remains a White House “highest priority” and touted American policies in the Middle East under Trump. He said the future for Israel and Arab countries “has never been brighter” and that the partnership between Israel’s high-tech industry and the UAE’s economic clout will be “truly incredible for the Middle East.”

By contrast, Iran, he said, “is facing an unprecedented financial crisis” due to the US “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to renegotiate the nuclear deal with world powers and agree to tighter restrictions. “That means that they cannot fund their proxies,” O’Brien said.

US President Donald Trump, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, second from right, and others applaud in the Oval Office at the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Washington. Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Speaking after O’Brien, Kushner said it had been “a long and winding road” to reach the Israel-UAE deal. Breakthroughs like this, he said, do not “happen often,” and do not “happen easy.”

Kushner listed a series of White House pro-Israel policies, including the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and also touted the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other US actions in the region.

Kushner said that the US peace proposal, unveiled by Trump in January at the White House, includes a “gracious offer” to the Palestinians and showed the world that “Israel is ready to make peace.”

He said the release of Trump’s peace proposal was the “breakthrough” that led to the agreement between Israel and the UAE. “There’ll be a lot more to come.”

Women wearing face masks against the coronavirus walk past United Arab Emirates and Israeli flags at the Peace Bridge in Netanya, Israel, August 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The president has been “writing a script for a new Middle East,” starting from his first presidential trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome, Kushner said. “He has reversed 20 years of bad outcomes in the Middle East” and built strong foundations for progress.

“A lot of people described the state of the Middle East as hopeless,” Kushner recalled, but in the last weeks “I’ve felt a new sense of optimism… The stage is now set for even more [agreements],” he said.

“I have never been more hopeful about peace,” Kushner said.

The first commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, El Al flight 971, will carry the American and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi, with the US delegation headed by Kushner and O’Brien, as well as US special envoy for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz.

Israel has requested permission from Saudi Arabia to overfly its territory, another first, but has not yet received permission, according to the Israeli Airline Pilots Association, which posted the tentative route online.

Various unsourced Hebrew media reports have claimed that permission has been granted. Without an okay from Riyadh, the three-hour flight would be extended to nearly nine hours.

Earlier the Prime Minister’s Office said the Israeli delegation would be civilian in nature and that defense officials would travel in the coming two weeks.

Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were establishing full diplomatic relations, in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The UAE is just the third Arab country to agree to establish official relations with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Israeli and American officials have expressed hope that other Gulf Arab countries will soon follow suit, with relations based on mutual commercial and security interests, and their shared enmity toward Iran.

A peace logo in Arabic, English and Hebrew is painted on El Al flight 971 on August 30, 2020 ahead of its maiden direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi (El Al spokesperson)

Said Kushner: “Four years ago, my father-in-law [Trump] asked me to work on peace in the Middle East. I’ve given it my all. There’s still much work to accomplish, but the Abraham Accords [with the UAE] is a giant step forward. To play a role in [the normalization deal’s] creation — and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors — it means more to me and to my family than I can ever express. We will continue to pursue peace between Israel, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, and its Arab and Muslim neighbors and I have never been more hopeful about peace.”

Jared Kushner prays at the Western Wall, August 30, 2020 (US Embassy)

Finally, in an apparent critique of previous US administrations, Kushner said the president had asked him to stress how proud he is “of the bond he has been able to restore between the US and Israel.”

Kushner later met with President Reuven Rivlin, who said he hoped the agreement would build trust with the Palestinians.

“I call on other Arab and Muslim states to follow this path of friendship and to establish full and warm relations with the State of Israel — peace between nations and peoples, peace for peace,” Rivlin said, according to a statement from his office.

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