Netanyahu Tells Kushner Ahead of UAE Visit: If Israel Waits for Palestinians on Peace, We Will Wait Forever

Senior White House adviser says the U.S. has made 'a very gracious, realistic offer' to the Palestinians, on the eve of talks in Abu Dhabi to discuss Israel-UAE deal, which the Palestinians have strongly opposed

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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White House adviser Jared Kushner and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make joint statements to the press about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords, in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020.
White House adviser Jared Kushner and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make joint statements to the press about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords, in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brian hailed the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates, and decried the Palestinian reticence to come to the negotiating table, in a visit to Israel Sunday for a series of meetings to discuss the agreement with Israeli leadership.   

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after meeting with the Trump administration officials, told the media in a statement that “For far too long Palestinians had veto on peace between Israel and the Arab world. If we have to wait for them we will wait forever.”

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Kushner said at the press conference that “When [the Palestinians] are ready to make peace, they now have the opportunity to do so.”

He said of the Trump administration's Middle East Plan that "The offer that’s been made to the Palestinians is a very gracious, realistic offer… that offer showed other people in the region that Israel was serious and that led to the breakthrough that we’ve had here today.”

The Palestinians rejected the UAE agreement, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior officials describing it as a "betrayal" of their cause. The Palestinian Authority announced that it cut ties with the United States in February, after the Trump administration released its Middle East plan, which the Palestinians also strongly opposed. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in Jerusalem, August 30, 2020. Credit: Emil Salman

The senior Trump advisor also thanked Netanyahu for “his trust and for his friendship and for all of the different creative approaches that you’ve brought over the past years to very many complicated situations.”

Kushner called UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed "a visionary leader. He’s very courageous, and what he’s built with his country is hopefully something that the rest of the Middle East can aspire to.” 

O'Brian said that U.S. President Donald Trump's vision is a two-state solution, with a promise to preserve Israel's security. According to O’Brian, the U.S. administration believes "that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalize relations with Israel.”

He added that due to the agreement, "Muslims who wish to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque will be able to fly from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv, where they will be welcomed."

The delegation also met with President Reuven Rivlin, who praised the normalization agreement with the UAE. "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,” he said, adding that he hopes that this spirit of cooperation will help build a future of trust, also with the Palestinians.”

Rivlin and Kushner also discussed an Israeli-Jordanian joint initiative that would see Christian pilgrims flocking to the area believed to be the baptismal site of John the Baptist, called the Land of the Monasteries. Developing and promoting the site will advance "bridging between the peoples and religions and will allow the vision of coexistence into a reality as part of regional cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians," the president said. 

The U.S. delegation also met with Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, who said after the meeting that he is certain other states will join the UAE in signing accords with Israel in the near future. 

He added that the Palestinians would do well to put aside their refusal to talk and come back to the negotiating table, and that he is prepared to work alongside the U.S. administration to "find the right avenues to ensure that Israel's defensive superiority," which is vital to regional stability, is preserved. 

Kushner and O'Brian were joined by Kushner's aide in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Avi Berkowitz, and special Iran envoy Brian Hook, along with other officials. They are also scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

In addition, a security delegation including representatives from Israel's entire defense establishment is expected to visit the UAE in the coming weeks. Gantz's office said in a statement that "Both countries have decided that the Israeli delegation leaving for the UAE on Monday, via Saudi airspace, will discuss civilian matters, while other topics will be reviewed at a later stage."

Some three weeks ago, it was announced by U.S. President Donald Trump that Israel and the UAE reached a historic peace deal on that would lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations.

On Saturday, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates' leader, issued a decree formally ending the country's boycott of Israel.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods

Under the agreement, Israel has agreed to suspend applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank that it has been discussing annexing, a joint statement by all three parties to the agreement said.

On Monday, the American delegation will depart along with several Israeli senior officials to Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli delegation will be headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. Israeli officials representing several government ministries and experts in the fields of tourism, aviation, space, commerce, health, energy and defense will also join the delegation to discuss cooperation and, along with their Emirati counterparts, will start formulating the official agreement to establish diplomatic ties between both countries.

El Al Airlines will fly Israel’s first flight to the UAE by a commercial carrier, a timetable on the Israel Airports Authority’s website showed. 

White House sources told Haaretz they hope that within a few weeks, presumably in early September, they will hold a formal signing ceremony that the leaders of all states involved will attend.

Over the next few weeks, Israel and the UAE are expected to discuss the details of bilateral agreements on topics including investment, agriculture, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, health care, culture and the environment. The parties will also discuss the establishment of reciprocal embassies.

There are already secret offices representing Israeli interests in the Gulf, but in his statement on the treaty Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced “the establishment of a full and formal peace” that “includes the mutual opening of embassies and the exchange of ambassadors.” Kushner, who led the efforts to obtain the agreement, also said the deal involves embassies in both countries.

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