Kushner Says More States to Follow Suit as U.S. Officials Praise Israel-UAE Deal

White House officials say Oman, Bahrain are next to normalize relations with Israel ■ Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden calls agreement 'brave and badly-needed' while warning Israel against annexation

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Senior U.S. Advisor Jared Kushner meets with Prime Minister BEnjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem, May 30, 2019.
Senior U.S. Advisor Jared Kushner meets with Prime Minister BEnjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem, May 30, 2019.Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem
The Associated Press
Reuters

Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump who was deeply involved in negotiating the UAE-Israel normalization agreement, said Thursday night that another country is likely to join the peace agreement in the coming days.

Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, said that discussions will resume with several other countries about possible deals regarding Israel. He said that criticism of the deal is "predictable," but that the move would allow more space for Palestinians to come to the negotiating table.

At a White House press briefing, officials said that Oman and Bahrain would be the next countries to normalize relations with Israel.

Talks between the two countries lasted a year and a half, Kushner said, before Israel and the UAE reached a deal last week, adding that the details were finalized Wednesday. Talks intensified about six weeks ago as the UAE saw an opportunity to forestall an Israeli bid to annex parts of the West Bank by offering a more important win for the country, Kushner added.

Israel agreed to temporarily postpone its West Bank annexation plans as part of the agreement. When asked how long Israel would do so, Kushner said that the deal would take time to implement. 

The agreement, announced on Thursday in a joint statement by the leaders of the three countries, was widely hailed by U.S. officials and groups. Trump called it a "HUGE breakthrough" and a "historic peace agreement between our two GREAT friends" in a tweet directly after the deal was announced.

Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, called it "brave and badly-needed," and warned that he would not support Israel's annexation of West Bank territory should he win the presidency. 

"The UAE's offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship," the former vice president said in a statement. "Annexation would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Israel and the UAE in both Arabic and Hebrew in a tweet, calling the agreement "a significant step forward for peace in the Middle East."

In a statement, Pompeo called the agreement "a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region. It also illustrates their commitment to confronting common threats, as small – but strong – nations."

Meanwhile, pro-Israel U.S. lobby group AIPAC hailed the agreement in a statement, saying that the UAE “joins Egypt and Jordan in paving the path to peace through recognition and engagement rather than by seeking to isolate and boycott the Jewish state.” AIPAC urged other Arab states and the Palestinians to follow the UAE’s lead and “end its boycott of Israel and America and return to the negotiating table.”

UN Envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov also welcomed the agreement, expressing hope it will pave the way for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and vowed that the United Nations would work to advance "peace and stability" in the region.

France also praised the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE.

Israel's decision to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the West Bank under the historic agreement is a "positive step", Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement, adding that the suspension "must become a definitive measure."

The accord paved the way for a resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians with the aim to establish two states, he said, calling it "the only option" to achieve peace in the region. 

Noa Landau contributed to this report.

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