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Jared Kushner calls on Saudi Arabia to follow in Emirates' footsteps and recognize Israel

White House Middle East adviser believes that establishing ties between the desert kingdom and Israelis will weaken Iran in the region
Jared Kushner, White House adviser on the Middle East, during a briefing on the UAE-Israel agreement in Washington August 13

REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE  -   Jared KushnWhite House adviser on the Middle East, during a briefing on the UAE-Israel agreement in Washington August 13

Winds of change are blowing in the Middle East. The recognition of Israel by the Emirates opens the door to a normalization of relations between Israelis and their Arab neighbors, after more than half a century of hostilities. The nations of this region of the world want to banish the old enmities that have fed the monster of hate for too long. Although the establishment of a State for the Palestinians is still a pending issue, the establishment of diplomatic ties is a sign that new times are coming and that dialogue is now taking centre stage in order to establish a lasting peace. The Emirate has done the hardest part, broken the ice and taken the first step, becoming the first Gulf country to recognise Israel. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and advisor in the Middle East, is now asking Saudi Arabia to be next. In his opinion, this move would weaken Iran's position in the region. 

"It would be very positive for Saudi business, its armed forces and, frankly, I think it would help the Palestinian people," Kushner said. Saudi Arabia has not yet pronounced itself on the agreement reached by its neighbours and has always reiterated its desire for the Palestinians to have an independent state with which to build a future. Kushner was one of the main architects of the peace plan presented by Trump for the Middle East last January, which proposes the creation of a Palestinian State and major transfers of the territory claimed by the Palestinians from Israel

Donald Trump
PHOTO/REUTERS - From left, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, U.S. President Donald Trump and White House Middle East adviser Jared Kushner at a meeting in Riyadh in 2017

Despite the optimism that this agreement with the Emirates has aroused, it is only the third Arab country to recognise Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. Even so, it is an open door to optimism, as it raises the possibility of similar agreements with other pro-Western states in the Gulf. Bahrain and Oman have concluded the agreement, while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Qatar have not yet spoken out. 

Criticism of the normalisation of relations

Despite the international welcome for the agreement, it does not always rain at everyone's ease. The Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, has assured that the normalization of relations between the Emirates and Israel is "a poisoned chalice" in the heart of the Palestinians, and has emphasized that they will fight so that the rest of the Arab countries do not follow this path, according to the statements collected by the Efe agency this Sunday.

Many politicians have questioned this decision through communiqués and many inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank have taken to the streets to show their discontent with the measure, which they called "treason". Erekat, who in addition to his position in the PLO is the Palestinian chief negotiator, explained in a dialogue with journalists on Sunday some of the factors of unrest with the Emirates, the main one being what they consider a "lack of honesty" on the part of the country's leaders. "They could have said that their interests require them to have relations with Israel because of their enmity with Iran or they could have admitted that it was to please the United States, but to say that they are doing this in the interest of the Palestinians is absolutely unacceptable," Erekat said. 

In the same vein, he said he did not understand what Abu Dhabi would gain from this decision. "I really want to know what the long-term interests of this measure are. Some say they need experts from Israel, but with the money they have, they can have experts from any country in the world, better than the Israelis. Do they think that Israel will help them if Iran attacks them? Are they crazy? That's why we're asking you to back off and tell Israel that you're willing to have diplomatic relations only when the occupation is over and the problem with the Palestinians is solved," he said.

In addition to his communication with the Emirate government, Erekat has acknowledged that they are in contact with leaders of other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, to ask them not to follow in the Emirate's footsteps and to defend the Palestinian position before the international community.

Iran has also explained its misgivings about the Emirates' agreement and has called the Gulf country "traitors" to the Palestinian cause, and threats have even been made against the Emirates. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Emirates has summoned this Sunday the Iranian chargé d'affaires to deliver him a formal complaint for the comments and even threats by Iran after the agreement reached by Abu Dhabi with Israel to establish full relations. According to the WAM news agency of the Emirates, Foreign Affairs delivered a "very strong protest note" in which it pointed out that the statements of the Iranian President, Hasan Rohani, are "unacceptable and inciting" and "carry serious repercussions for the security and stability of the Persian Gulf".