Kushner: No urgency for Israeli sovereignty in West Bank

In step toward official diplomatic ties, Ashkenazi, Omani FM speak by phone

JARED KUSHNER, senior adviser to the president, listens to US President Donald Trump speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House last year. (photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
JARED KUSHNER, senior adviser to the president, listens to US President Donald Trump speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House last year.
(photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
Israel will not proceed with applying sovereignty to parts of the West Bank without America’s support, and the US will not agree to it for “some time,” White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner said in a briefing with Middle Eastern media outlets on Monday.
The comments came after last week’s announcement of peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and that annexation plans were “suspended.”
Asked how he can guarantee Israel will not move forward with sovereignty, Kushner touted the “very trusting relationship” between Israel’s leadership and US President Donald Trump’s administration.
“That land is land that right now Israel quite frankly controls. Israelis that live there aren’t going anywhere. There shouldn’t be any urgency to applying Israeli law. We believe they will respect their agreement,” Kushner said.
The focus for now should be on “getting this new peace agreement implemented,” Kushner said. “We want to get as much interchange between Israel and the UAE as possible.”
Trump’s peace plan, which is one of Kushner’s portfolios in the administration, would have allowed Israel to apply sovereignty to up to 30% of the West Bank, the rest of which would be designated for a Palestinian state. The normalization agreement with the UAE stipulates Israel would suspend its plans to extend its laws in those areas.
Kushner said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a map dividing Judea and Samaria into a Palestinian state and a part that would belong to Israel, calling it “the first map ever agreed publicly to by one of the parties.”
The special adviser recounted that as Israel came close to making moves toward sovereignty, “a lot of people were objecting to it,” and “the UAE thought perhaps by normalizing with Israel they can stop that, stave off the possibility of having Israel be condemned for it and give the Palestinian people hope and an opportunity for a negotiated settlement.
“The ball is really in the court of the Palestinians now,” he added.
Kushner said he thinks Trump’s “Vision for Peace” can solve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but “we’re not going to chase the Palestinian leadership.”
“We reached out to them and said the application of Israeli sovereignty is on hold,” he said.
Also Monday, Oman and Israel took a step toward official diplomatic ties, with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Oman’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah speaking on the phone. The ministers agreed to keep in contact and “promote the normalization process in the Middle East.”
Bin Abdullah affirmed Oman’s support “to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East and the need to resume the peace process negotiations and to fulfill the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the ministry said.
Following the conversation, Ashkenazi wrote on Twitter that he and bin Abdullah “discussed recent developments in the region, the normalization agreement with the UAE and the need to strengthen ties between the countries.”
Ashkenazi said he appreciates Oman’s commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East.
Bin Abdullah also spoke to Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of the central committee of the Palestinian Fatah group.
Kushner denied that the US is pressuring more Gulf states to normalize relations with Israel.
“There is a relationship with Israel with some, but the trust is not fully there... What we have done in the last years is try to accelerate the relationships and build the trust. We believe a lot more of the [Gulf states] will want to move forward” with diplomatic ties with Israel, he stated.
The special adviser said he thinks there are opportunities for more diplomatic breakthroughs in the coming months, and more Arab states will likely formalize their ties with Israel as they realize Iran is the real threat to the region.
“Israel is always a convenient scapegoat,” Kushner said. “For the last 70 years, leaders used Israel to divert the attention of their publics from their own shortcomings at home... Israel is not the main issue of the region in the last few years. People are realizing there is more instability and threats because of Iran.”
Kushner pointed out that Iran, not Israel, has shot missiles into Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and it is Iranian proxies that destabilized Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
“There is a big pushback in these countries against Iranian influence,” he said, adding that he is pushing for countries to “finalize relations with Israel and not let Iran exploit these divisions that shouldn’t exist.”
Earlier Monday, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that his country’s newly open ties with Israel are not targeting Iran.
The comment came after a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who called the agreement a betrayal. The UAE summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
“The UAE-Israeli peace treaty is a sovereign decision that is not directed at Iran,” Gargash tweeted. “We do not accept interference in our decisions, just as we reject threats and threats... Strategic decisions are transformative and have their impact and our decision on our future enhances our position and our competitiveness.”
Kushner also said “Israelis are excited they can get cheaper flights through Dubai, and Muslims are excited they can fly through Dubai to Tel Aviv to go to al-Aqsa.”
Netanyahu said Israel is in talks to have direct flights to the United Arab Emirates fly over Saudi airspace.
“It is a short flight of three hours, like to Rome, but it will greatly change Israeli aviation and the economy, with a great number of tourists on both sides and a great number of investments,” Netanyahu said during a visit to Ben-Gurion Airport.
Israir has already put in a request to begin direct flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, he said.
The prime minister said Emiratis are interested in “massive investment” in Israeli technology, and that free trade zones in the Emirates will allow for inexpensive goods to be imported into Israel.
“It is a boost to the Israeli economy and good for every citizen,” he added.
Netanyahu pointed out that direct flights to the Emirates will make flying to and from Israel easier for many people. They would shorten travel time from Israel to East Asia and Oceania.
The prime minister also gave an interview to Sky News Arabia, which is based in the UAE.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed they have staff on the ground searching for a site in Abu Dhabi for the Israeli embassy. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen was reportedly in Abu Dhabi on Monday, as well. The two sides are engaged in a dispute over who should take charge of finalizing the normalization agreement.