After accompanying the Israeli delegation to the United Arab Emirates for historic normalization talks, White House adviser Arered Kushner traveled to other Gulf capitals on Tuesday, seeking more Arab support.
Israel and the UAE have set up a joint financial services co-operation committee for talks in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi. Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, accompanied the Israeli delegation on Monday on what was said to be Israel’s first commercial flight to the influential Gulf monarchy, which agreed in August to normalize relations with Israel.
Israel exchanged embassies with neighbors Egypt and Jordan under peace agreements decades ago. But so far, all other Arab states have demanded that more land be given to the Palestinians first, prompting criticism from stakeholders across the region.
The Palestinians have condemned the deal as a stab in the back by the biggest Arab player, while still not having their own state. Turkey has threatened to sever ties with the UAE following the announcement of normalization.
Israel’s archives in Iran have been sharply criticized. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Twitter on Tuesday that “the UAE has surrendered to the world of Islam, the Arab nations, the countries of the region and Palestine.”
– Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) September 1, 2020
Kushner later flew to Bahrain and then to Saudi Arabia and is expected to visit Qatar.
In Bahrain, home to the US naval headquarters for the region, the state news agency reported that during his meeting with Kushner, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised the UAE’s role in defending Arab and Islamic interests.
In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Kouchner discussed the need for the Palestinians and Israelis to continue negotiations and achieve lasting peace, the state-run SPA news agency reported.
Looking at the Israeli media, you will get the impression that they are celebrating UAE ties. When you consider that they could have ties to 57 Arab and Muslim countries (many more direct flights!) If they only complied with international law, you realize that what they are actually celebrating today is impunity.
– (((YousefMunayyer))) (@YousefMunayyer) August 31, 2020
Although several officials have not made any statements suggesting that they will recognize Israel soon, in remarks released by the UAE state news agency, Kouchner suggested that other Arab states could follow suit quickly.
Asked when the next one would normalize relations with Israel, he was quoted as saying: “Hopefully it will be months.”
Saudi Arabia has allowed El Charter’s charter flight with Kushner and the Israelis to use its airspace, despite public opposition to normalization.
There are overlapping regional interests between Israel and the Arab states in the Persian Gulf, which are largely ruled by Sunni Muslim monarchs who consider their biggest enemy to be Shiite Iran.
Israel has long kept its promise that their common enemy could bring them closer, despite regional opposition to Israel’s expansion into the occupied Palestinian territories.
Sheikh Zayed’s pick in the middle with Kushner, a strong supporter of far-right Israeli illegal immigrants, sitting below him in the center of the room.
Zayed’s legacy in the UAE and the Arab world has been dragged through the mud. What a shame. pic.twitter.com/cWgPqBig4C
– Mohamed (@MohamedHemish) September 1, 2020
Iranian derogatory comments were not limited to Twitter. In a fiery speech on Tuesday, Khamenei said: “The Emirates will be forever ashamed of this betrayal against the Islamic world, the Arab nations and Palestine.
“The UAE, together with Israelis and evil Americans like the Jewish member of the Trump family, are working together against the interests of the Islamic world,” Khamenei said, referring to Kushner, who is Jewish.
Asked about Khamenei’s remarks, UAE Foreign Ministry spokesman Alamal al-Musharraf told reporters in Abu Dhabi: “The road to peace and prosperity is not paved with hate speech.”
Israeli officials have assessed the economic benefits of the agreement with the UAE. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said representatives of the two countries had signed an agreement on co-operation in financial services.
Journey to Pompeo in the Middle East: Push to Improve Relations with Israel
The Abu Dhabi State Investment Office and Israel Invest, part of the Israeli Ministry of Economy, issued a joint statement saying they had agreed to establish a plan for formal co-operation.
The Gulf’s largest lender, First Bank Abu Dhabi, later said it would open talks with Israeli lenders Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi.
Amid historic normalization talks, Kushner spent the morning meeting with UAE military officials at Abu Dhabi Air Force Base, which houses US F-35 fighter jets, advanced stealth aircraft that the Gulf country has long sought to buy despite Israeli objections.
The UAE has said normalization should remove any barriers to sales. Netanyahu said Monday that Israel still opposes the sale of UAE aircraft.