Jared Kushner says 'stage is set' for further Arab-Israeli deals

White House adviser is trumpeting the recent agreement by Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations as a historic breakthrough

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White House adviser Jared Kushner on Sunday trumpeted the recent agreement by Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations as a historic breakthrough and said “the stage is set” for other Arab states to follow suit, but he gave no indication that any new deals were imminent.

Mr Kushner spoke alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

The August 13 announcement makes the UAE just the third Arab country to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, and the first to do so in over 25 years. The Abraham Accord between the UAE and Israel was struck on the condition that a planned annexation of vast swathes of the occupied West Bank did not go ahead.

“Today obviously we celebrate a historic breakthrough for peace,” Mr Kushner said, adding that the deal will create “previously unthinkable” economic, security and religious cooperation.

“While this peace agreement was thought by many to be impossible, the stage is now set for even more,” he said, claiming he has heard optimism throughout the region since the deal was announced.

“We must seize that optimism and we must continue to push to make this region achieve the potential that it truly has,” said Mr Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser.

Israel and the UAE have moved quickly to cement their ties over the past two weeks. Almost immediately, they opened direct phone lines, and Cabinet ministers have held friendly phone conversations.

On Saturday, the UAE formally ended its commercial boycott of Israel.
But so far, predictions by Israeli and American officials, including Mr Kushner, that other Arab countries would follow the UAE have not yet materialised.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo toured the region last week, stopping in Sudan, Bahrain and Oman — three countries widely seen as candidates to establish ties with Israel — but appeared to leave empty-handed.

The flurry of US diplomatic activity comes as the Trump administration presses ahead with ambitious plans to promote Arab-Israeli rapprochement even in the absence of a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had long been seen as a prerequisite for Israel to reach peace deals with all of its Arab neighbours.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the agreement with the UAE would bring “unbridled” trade and opportunities.

Trump unveiled a Middle East plan in January that has been rejected by the Palestinians, who say it unfairly favours Israel.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — for an independent state.

The Trump plan offers them limited autonomy in 70 per cent of the West Bank, leaving Israel in overall control of the territory, and a symbolic presence on the outskirts of Jerusalem, while handing Israel control of the city’s sensitive holy sites.