The president is expected to sign the accords in a ceremony at the White House later Tuesday attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain. Trump said his administration was negotiating with several other Arab nations that could potentially join the pact, and he predicted that Palestine “will ultimately come in, too.”
“Let me tell you, when we start getting the rest of the countries in, they will come to the table, 100 percent. They’re actually getting to a point where they’re going to want to make a deal. They won’t say that outwardly. They want to make a deal,” Trump said, adding that “otherwise, they will be left out in the cold.”
Most of the Middle East’s Arab nations have historically resisted normalizing ties with Israel, officially siding with Palestinians seeking a deal that would secure for themselves an independent state.
But some Arab states have in recent years quietly cooperated with Israel to counter a common geopolitical foe, Iran. Those covert ties have come increasingly out into the open as Arab states work to curry favor with the decidedly pro-Israel and anti-Iran Trump administration.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has taken a leading role in crafting the administration’s Middle East foreign policy, also appeared on multiple morning news shows Tuesday to promote the signing of the accords, which he argued represent the “beginning of the end of the Israel-Arab conflict.”
“America has had a lot of expenditures in the Middle East. We’ve had a lot of troops, we’ve had a lot of our money and our attention focused there for the last 20 years. But this really signals the beginning of the president bringing people together,” Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview.
But when pressed on Palestine’s role in the administration’s strategy and foreign policy flashpoints such as borders, settlements and the holy city of Jerusalem, Kushner was dismissive, saying: “Those issues aren’t as complicated as people have made them out to be.”
“With regard to the Palestinians, I think with time that will come,” Kushner said, while maintaining that the U.S. “can’t want peace more than other people want peace.”
The Trump administration has pursued a Middle East policy favoring Israel and aimed largely at coercing Palestinians to participate in peace talks — including by cutting off their U.S. aid, among other measures.
But even if Trump hopes the accords become yet another pressure point for the Palestinians to agree to a peace deal with Israel, officials within the UAE and Bahrain do not necessarily share this view. For the Emiratis and the Bahrainis, the normalization agreements with Israel are more important for the united front they present against Iran, as well their potential economic and diplomatic benefits.
In an interview Tuesday with the Atlantic Council, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused former President Barack Obama’s administration of having adopted an “Iran-centric focus” in its Middle East policy. The Trump administration, however, “has taken a fundamentally different approach to creating an opportunity for increased stability in the Middle East and less risk to America,” he said.
“We laid out a vision for peace that had another element, which was the deep recognition that the primary destabilizing force in the Middle East was not the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “It was, rather, the threat of the extraterritorial ambitions of the clerical regime in Iran. So we have flipped what the previous administration was doing on its head.”
Nahal Toosi and Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.
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