It is time to act to ensure the Abraham Accords fulfill their potential, Jared Kushner, former senior adviser to US president Donald Trump, said Monday at a ceremony in the Knesset.
“What we created is a new paradigm in the region,” he said. “It can have many different outcomes. It is imperative on all of us to set high expectations for what we want the Abraham Accords to achieve.”
Kushner, who founded the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace, spoke at an event in honor of the one-year anniversary of the peace and normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states. His wife, Ivanka Trump, attended as well.
The Knesset Abraham Accords Caucus, which includes 107 MKs and is led by Ofir Akunis (Likud) and Ruth Wasserman Lande (Blue and White), hosted the event.
Kushner recalled that the announcement of peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates “shocked everyone.” He quipped that it was “one of the few things between Israel and the US that didn’t leak out.”
Kushner said when he, together with the first Israeli delegation, arrived in Abu Dhabi on a direct flight, “the image captured the imaginations of the whole region. People realized things were just different.”
Now, Israel is more popular in Arab states than he had imagined, Kushner said.
“Muslims in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistani are seeing that Israel is not what they thought it is,” he said. “They are seeing that Israel is welcoming their Muslim brothers. A new era has really begun.”
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was the favorite of the attendees at the event, with raucous rounds of applause whenever his name was mentioned and during his speech.
Netanyahu quoted his 1995 book A Place Among the Nations, saying an economically successful Israel would be able to have relations with other Middle East nations.
“Five years ago, I spoke at the UN and said, ‘The biggest changes happening in Israel are happening in the Arab world... They are realizing Israel is their ally; that our common enemies are Iran and ISIS,’” he said. “This was widely pooh-poohed.”
Netanyahu said he had suggested encouraging peace between Israel and Arab countries to “successive administrations” to no avail.
In an apparent reference to the Obama administration, he said: “They believed that the way to get to the Arab states was to create daylight between Israel and the US... It was enunciated very clearly.”
Netanyahu rejected those who said the Palestinian problem must be solved before there can be peace between Israel and Arab states.
“The persistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize a Jewish state is a root cause of the Palestinian problem,” he said. “If you waited until the Palestinians removed their veto, you’d never have a broader peace.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the Abraham Accords “a lever for a new reality, economically, in terms of security and diplomatically.”
He called on the Palestinians and all Arab nations to see that Israel wants peace.
“Peace is not a compromise; it is the most unequivocal decision that we can make,” Lapid said. “Peace is not weakness. It includes all the power of the human spirit. War is a surrender to what is bad in us; peace is the victory of what is good in us.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz took a different angle, saying the fact he had “prevented the unilateral annexation [of territories] enabled the vision of the Abraham Accords to break through and materialize.”
Among the other speakers at the event were US Chargé d’Affaires Michael Ratney and Moroccan Ambassador to Israel Abderrahim Beyyoudh.
Also in attendance was a group of Bahraini public opinion leaders who are in Israel on a mission with Sharaka, an organization that encourages people-to-people ties between Israelis and citizens of Gulf states.
Some members of the delegation enthusiastically filmed Netanyahu on their smartphones and took pictures with him after the event.
Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman shouted “phooey,” in Yiddish, at the group in the halls of the Knesset. The Joint List opposes the Abraham Accords, arguing that Arab states should not normalize relations with Israel until there is a Palestinian state.
Also on Monday, former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman launched his Friedman Center for Peace Through Strength at a gala event in Jerusalem.
Trump and Kushner attended the event, as did former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
The premiere episode of The Abraham Accords, a documentary series Friedman co-produced with the TBN Network, was shown for the first time at the event.