The White House provides background information for next weeks historic signing of a peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
[Transcript] – MR. VASQUEZ: Hey, good afternoon, everybody. I have here Senior Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner.
He will give updates on the latest on the Middle East peace efforts, namely next week’s historic signing between the United Arab Emirates and Israel of the Abraham Accords, and today’s great development of President Trump being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This call will be on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Jared.
MR. KUSHNER: Thank you very much, Eddie, and thank you all for joining us today.
So, first of all, it was — President Trump was very, very honored to be nominated this morning for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in bringing the Middle East closer together and the peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Having just traveled back from the region, I can say that the feeling that I felt there was completely different on the last trip than it has been for the last three and a half years. There is a tremendous sense of optimism in the Middle East and people thinking about what is possible and how can we move forward to improve, you know, our respective countries, bring the region together, settle old disputes, and create new futures and new opportunities.
If you think about it, it’s under a month ago, on just the 13th of August, that we the historic call between President Trump, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and Prime Minister Netanyahu where they agreed to take a big step forward for peace through normalizing relations.
Since then, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of activity. We — I was on, last week, the first commercial flight from Israel to United Arab Emirates, which flew over Saudi airspace. And we brought the delegations there to start the dialogues and to figure out how we get all the different agreements done that need to be done in order to get the tremendous amount of business that people want to have: technology exchange, education exchange, culture exchange, tourism exchange.
And the excitement is just really, really palpable. I would say that’s it’s almost like we’ve unleashed an energy positivity in the region that is really quite overwhelming, where the people who are optimists and forces who want to see something different are now feeling tremendous amounts of opportunity.
The next day on the trip, after we left Saudi Arabia, they agreed to open their airspace not just to flights from Israel to the United Arab Emirates and back, but to all eastward travel. So when people make requests, they’ll grant those requests. That will save people a lot of time. That knocks down a barrier that’s been up for 72 years. And again, you know, countries starting to, you know, let go of old conflicts and move in the direction of peace.
Bahrain, the next day, we were there, they did the same thing where they opened up their airspace. All of this will cut down a lot of the travel time between different countries. It allows people from Saudi to go to Europe faster; they can fly over Israel, and people from Israel to Asia, and Asia to Israel to have, you know, much more connectivity. But it’s a tremendous barrier that’s been — that’s been taken away.
You’re seeing every day new announcements of, you know, airlines that are looking to fly from Israel to different Arab cities that traditionally they weren’t allowed to go to. And backwards, you have a lot of excitement building in the Arab world and Muslim world with people wanting to go to Israel to visit the tourist sites and to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. You’re seeing Kosher restaurants opening up now in Dubai.
And so every day we’re seeing new and new announcements, which is showing the progress that this peace is bringing to the Middle East. And obviously, this morning, they announced that President Trump has been formally nominated for the Nobel Prize. And I think that it really is just a tremendous thing.
Next week, we’re going to do the signing here at the White House. We’re going to have representatives from Israel, the United Arab Emirates here with President Trump. We’ll have a good crew in attendance to be celebrating this accord. It’s really been bipartisanly praised here in America.
We saw today that the Arab League met; they did not condemn formally this agreement. And what we’re seeing now in the Middle East is that the tide is really changing and countries are doing now what’s in their best interests. Countries support the Palestinians. America supports the Palestinians. But people want to see a resolution that’s a fair and proper resolution, but they’re not going to hold back their own progress now in order to allow this conflict to continue to be stuck in the mud.
So again, over the last three and a half years, when President Trump came into office, the Middle East was a total mess. America alienated a lot of its allies. ISIS had a caliphate the size of Ohio. Iran was just given $150 billion and on a pathway to a nuclear weapon. They were funding proxies all over the region. That was causing grave instability.
And since then, President Trump has brought his allies closer. He significantly cut back on Iran’s resources that they’ve been using to fund terror and finance — finance bad behavior and militias. And, you know, we’ve seen that the territorial caliphate of ISIS has been taken back. We just met with the Iraqi Prime Minister, who has — who has that country, finally, on a positive trajectory.
And all of America’s allies feel much closer to America, and now they’re becoming closer to each other and breaking barriers that people thought previously were not breakable. So it really is a very hopeful time in the Middle East.
Why this matters to America: Obviously here, in the last election, ISIS was a big fear of a lot of people. We’d had a lot of terror threats that were inspired and, in some cases, planned from the region. We had a lot of U.S. troops who have been in that region, patrolling. A lot of American military members were killed in action or wounded in wars in the Middle East.
President Trump is making peace. He’s bringing our troops home. And he’s getting — he’s creating a regional structure of interconnectivity where you’ll have long-term security in the region, and there really is just tremendous opportunity now for better potential.
So there’s still plenty of work to do, but the steps that have been taken, people thought it could not be done. And again, by taking a non-traditional approach, we’ve achieved some great breakthroughs, and we’re going to celebrate that tomorrow — sorry, next week, at the White House.
And it’s really the beginning of what, you know, President Trump has been talking about now from his very first trip overseas, where he went to Saudi Arabia, and then to Israel, and then to Rome to address the three Abrahamic faiths.
You know, you’ve seen him bring people together around shared interests. He’s trying to get people to resolve old conflicts and bringing peace, which obviously is great for America and great for the world. So this is a very, very exciting and historic development. And we’re very happy to talk about that.
So now I’ll take a couple of questions.
Q Hi, Jared. Thanks for doing this call.
MR. KUSHNER: No problem.
Q I’m hoping that I can squeeze in two questions, if it’s not too selfish. The first one is: I just wondered if you could shed some light on the status of efforts to get the Palestinians and Israelis to find some sort of a peace deal and move forward with the effort that you had put forward several months ago. Where does that stand?
And my second question: With regard to talks with the Emirates on the F-35, can you tell us a little bit about where those discussions stand, and particularly shed some light on some of the pushback that’s come from Congress — bipartisan pushback that’s come back on some of the concerns of selling the F-35 to the Emirates, and how are you going to navigate that — that whole situation? Thank you.
MR. KUSHNER: Sure. So with regards to the Palestinians — so again, we put out the most detailed proposal ever for the Palestinians. You know, Israel agreed to a state for the Palestinians, and they agreed to a map, which is something that had never been done before.
In the first meetings with President Abbas, he said, “If you could get Israel to agree to a map, then the rest will be easy to figure out.” We did better than that: We got them to agree to a state with a map and then real granular conditions as to, you know, how operationally the two people can live together. And so we worked very carefully on that proposal, which is what we thought would be a fair place to start from America.
Israel agreed to negotiate on that basis. And then the Palestinians rejected it before it even came out, so before they even knew what was in it. So — and, again, their strategy has been just to avoid getting into the details on this. But I think that there’s a real desire in the region to try to see it resolved and move on.
And so, you know, the offer still remains out there for their leadership. The proposal is on the table. We’ve chosen not to chase them. But the moment that they’re ready to engage, we believe that we have the ability to make a peace deal between them and Israel. But we can’t want them to make peace. We can’t want them to have peace more than they want to have peace.
So when they’re really ready for peace, they’ll call us. They know the terms that we were able to get Israel to agree to negotiate on the basis on. Again, if they think that the lines are drawn in the wrong place, we should come and try to come with a counter proposal, and then we’ll see if we can, you know, bring the two parties together.
But the reality is, is that there’s a very fair offer on the table, and they’ve chosen, right now, not to engage on that. And that’s obviously their prerogative, but the reality is, is they have to make decisions based on what they think is in the best interest of the Palestinian people. And the Palestinian people’s lives are not getting better by their refusing to negotiate.
We put forward an economic vision for the Palestinian people that we believe will double their GDP, create a million new jobs, reduce their unemployment by 50 percent, and really give the Palestinian areas the opportunity to thrive, and their people a real pathway to a better life and dignity and self-determination. And again, they rejected it before it even came out.
And so I do you think the people would like to see this resolved. I think Israel would like to see this resolved. I think what you’re hearing from all of these Arab countries is that they’re tired of waiting for the Palestinian leadership to resolve this.
And, again, they see that Israel is serious about making peace, which is why Israel has, you know, made the concessions that they’ve made and agreed to negotiate on the basis that they have. And I think that it’s really up to the Palestinian leadership.
So they can either just wait and drag this on for a long time, or they can come to the table. And, you know, President Trump has shown that he’s a deal maker, and he believes that he can make a peace deal.
So it’s really up to them, but we’re not going to chase them. But President Trump would like to see this deal get done because I think it would be, you know, important towards bringing the whole region together.
With regard to the F-35: Right now, again, it’s just something that’s being discussed; we’re going through consultations. President Trump has shown that he’s — that he understands Israel’s security probably more than any American president in decades. He’s been a great friend of Israel. He’s made the region safer. He’s brought America and Israel closer than they’ve ever been before. And we’re going to, obviously, work with the QME. And we’ll do what we can do to make sure that we accommodate that circumstance.
But the United Arab Emirates is a great military, you know, partner of America. We work together on a lot of things. They’re right on the border with Iran and have real threats. And I think that there’s a lot of opportunity to be gained by working on this.
So this is something that we’re discussing very seriously. And we’ll see what happens as we go through consultations with the Israelis and with Congress and with other partners.
Q Hi, this is Heather (inaudible) from (inaudible) Newspaper. Can the diplomatic relations between Israeli and — Israel and Arab countries put an end to the Israeli annexation of the Palestinian West Bank territory or just (inaudible)?
And another question about King Salman’s call with — (inaudible) the King Salman of Saudi Arabia-Trump call with President Trump. He said that the (inaudible) there are two resolutions to the Palestinian issue through the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which (inaudible) normalization of ties between old Arab countries and Israelis. Are you considering this initiative? Thank you.
MR. KUSHNER: Sure. So, with regards to that: I mean, I say that, you know, with the Kingdom, we are very appreciative that they waived — what they did with their airspace. I think that was a real step towards regional unification. You know, King Salman and the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, they feel very strongly about the Palestinian cause. They would like to see the Palestinians work a fair deal and improve the lives of their people.
But again, they’re going to do what’s in the best interests of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi people and Muslim people from throughout the world as they take that responsibility very seriously.
So, you know, I think that they — he had good chat with the President and, obviously, we’ll see what happens and for how long, you know, they want to do it. But I will say that a lot of people are losing patience with the Palestinian leadership because, you know, right now, they’re just — they seem to be — you know, their people are just losing patience with them.
And then with regards to annexation: Look, you know, these are terms that have been used in public for a long time. I look at this much more simplistically, which is: Look, you have a territorial dispute that basically exists because of — you had, you know, one — Israel had independence in 1948. You had a war, then you had another war in ‘67. You had another war in ’73. All were defensive wars. And obviously, Israel conquered territory. Over years, you’ve had a lot of — you know, Arab leaders use hatred of Israel as a way to deflect from a lot of their shortcomings at home. It’s become, you know, a politicized issue. The Palestinian people were used as pawns. And you have a lot of claims.
Now, the reality is, is I — and I showed a graph when I spoke at the U.N., that — you know, that over the course of the negotiations for the last 25 years, the reason why they never accomplished anything was because both parties were getting what they wanted. Every time a negotiation failed, Israel took more land and the Palestinians got more money from the international community. And the conflict became a cash cow for the leadership. And, unfortunately, some of it trickled down to the people, but not enough.
So the reality is, today, that a lot of this land is inhabited with Israelis. What we did with our plan was we were trying to save the two-state solution because if you — if we kept going with the status quo of what was happening, ultimately, Israel would have eaten up all the land in the West Bank.
And so, right now, you have a situation where there is land that could become a Palestinian state. It is possible to connect it, but the land that Israeli settlers are in right now is land that Israel controls, and the odds of them ever giving it up is unlikely. That’s why the map that we drew was what we thought was a realistic map based on the — we played the ball as it lies, right? We took the realities in the world today and we drew a map based on that, knowing what was achievable and what was not achievable.
So, again, you know, people used the Arab Peace Initiative, and that was a great effort, but it was in 2002. If that would have worked, then we would have made peace a long time ago.
So, you know, we need new points of reference, and that’s what we have right now. And so, you know, again, my fear for the Palestinians is that if they do what they’re very good at doing, which is figure out how to not make a deal and play the victim card, then what’s going to happen is, you know, more time is going to go by and the situation is just going to get worse and worse for them.
They have an amazing opportunity now, and I really hope they have the courage and the wisdom to come to the negotiating table, try to make the best deal for their people, and move forward with (inaudible). You know, people want to focus on positivity and opportunity, not on old conflicts.
Q Hi. Good afternoon. Thank you for doing this. I have two questions. Number one: Did you or did the administration invite Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to the White House ceremony, since this is also on the foreign ministry level?
And second question is: Has the administration briefed Congress or invited members of the Democratic Party to the ceremony to ensure that this initiative receive bipartisan support?
MR. KUSHNER: So with regards to the other countries, I mean, both countries will be able to choose their delegations, so that will be up to them. But with — you know, from their respective ministries. But with regards to here in the U.S., this is something that should be bipartisan. We will invite Democrats and Republicans to be here.
And again, I really do hope that America’s — you know, the politics should extend at our borders. And, you know, with something like this, this has been praised by people on both sides of the aisle, and hopefully this is one issue that can stay out of politics.
Making peace is a very important thing, and this makes America safer, it makes our lives stronger, it makes the world a better place, it makes our American troops less at risk. And so this is a great thing, and we hope that Republicans and Democrats will come together to join us in this great celebration.
Great. Well, guys, thank you very much.