Middle East ‘shouldn't be stuck in conflicts of the past’, says Kushner

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said there was a lot of optimism after the UAE-Israel agreement last week

FILE PHOTO: White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks during a press briefing on the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates at the White House in Washington, August 13, 2020.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser, says there is a lot of optimism that the Middle East doesn’t need to be “stuck in conflicts of the past” following the announcement of the UAE-Israel accord last week.

“What I have seen over the last four days is that a lot more people are now beginning to be optimistic about the potential” for the region.

“People are looking at all the great opportunities that can exist by working together if we let go of some of the conflicts of the past and figure out how to carve a much brighter and better future,” he said.

“We do believe there will be more normalisation with Israel and we do believe at some point that the Israeli-Palestinian issue will get resolved”.

He said the Middle East was a “very big issue” when Donald Trump was elected as US president in 2016, citing the Iran nuclear deal and Tehran’s continuing regional aggression, the threat of ISIS, as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Mr Trump had “built trust back among his allies” over the past four years, he said, and had dealt with these issues by standing up for “what is right”.

Mr Kushner said the region had started to see how harmful Iranian aggression was and that it was critical that “bad actors” were stopped from exploiting divisions.

“Iran’s place in the region had changed quite dramatically thanks to Mr Trump’s leadership and the sanctions that he had imposed”.

The Arab-Israel peace process in pictures 

His comments were made following the announcement of the Abraham Accord on August 13, in which Israel agreed to halt its plans for annexation of Palestinian territories in exchange for establishing diplomatic ties with the UAE.

The agreement is expected to develop trade, technology and healthcare links between the UAE and Israel. Earlier this week, companies from the two countries announced a co-operation agreement to develop a fast and accurate coronavirus testing kit together.

Mr Kushner said the UAE and Israel are “two security, technology and economic powerhouses”.

The broader aim among US officials is to re-energise the regional peace process.

The White House special adviser said the accord meant “the Palestinian people had hope and there is still an opportunity for a negotiated settlement”.

He said the “ball is really in the court of the Palestinians now and obviously we welcome them anytime to come to the table".

“I think that President Trump has earned the trust of a lot of the regional partners and that has enabled this historic peace breakthrough to come about”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, have expressed support for the accord and said it could create space for re-engagement with the peace process, although Palestinian reaction has been less enthusiastic.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, had previously rejected Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which was released in January.

Regionally, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan and Egypt have declared their support for the new initiative.

Mr Kushner said that “we have not put pressure on any other state” to establish relations with Israel, but that it was in their interests to do so.

Countries will do things that are in their interests to do, he said.

“A relationship that is built on pressure is not going to last.”

Mr Kushner said the Trump administration has had many discussions with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the Palestinian issue.

“King Salman has a strong place in his heart for the Palestinian people and for their cause and the Crown Prince does as well. They want the Palestinian people to have a state and economic opportunities and they would like to see this resolved.”