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The Israel-UAE Deal

On Plugged In…

A promise of peace.

The United Arab Emirates…

is the first...

Persian Gulf Arab state …

to formally …

recognize Israel.

A breakthrough agreement…

draws both cheers and boos …

throughout the Middle East …

((Jared Kushner))

“This deal obviously changes everything.”

Jared Kushner …

President Trump’s …

Senior Adviser …

tells us how …

the deal came together …

what it means ...

for the region ...

and for the U.S.

On Plugged In …

“The Israel - UAE Peace Deal.”

(Greta Van Susteren)

Hello and welcome to Plugged In.

I’m Greta Van Susteren reporting from my home in Washington DC.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by the United States.

It is just the third peace deal between Israel and an Arab nation since Israel’s founding in 1948.

As part of the deal Israel agrees to suspend plans to annex parts of Palestinian land occupied since the Six Day War in 1967.

Calling the agreement the “Abraham Accord” President Donald Trump called it “historic” and predicting other Arab countries will follow suit.

We begin our coverage with VOA White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara.

((Patsy Widakuswara))

Emirati Muslims can now pray in the historic Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, after the United Arab Emirates announced it has normalized relations with Israel.

At the White House, President Donald Trump applauded the announcement.

((President Donald Trump))

“Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead.”


The UAE-Israel agreement is only the third Israel-Arab peace deal since Israel's declaration of independence in 1948. Egypt signed one in 1979, and Jordan in 1994.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called it a "historic day” - a sentiment supported by administration officials.

((Robert O’Brien, National Security Adviser))

“It wouldn't surprise me if the president is eventually nominated for a Nobel Prize.”

((William Todman, Center for Strategic and International Studies))

“In terms of a step towards regional peace, I think that part is currently being exaggerated. There was never a threat of a conflict between Israel and the UAE. But this is the first Gulf state to normalize relations with Israel, and that's going to open up a lot of new possibilities for the two countries.”


As part of the deal, Israel has agreed to suspend further annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Analysts say that taking annexation off the table benefits Israel strategically since it won’t absorb a significant number of Palestinians against their will.

((William Wechsler, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East))

“That’s putting long term Israel in a really terrible position of choosing whether they're going to pick their Jewish identity or their identity as a democratic state. That's a that's not a situation that any friend of Israel wants to see Israel in over the long run.”


The UAE-Israel deal is seen as further isolating another regional power, Iran.

The U.S. is currently trying to push a UN Security Council resolution to extend an arms embargo on Tehran, due to expire in October. China and Russia have signaled they will veto it.

If the resolution fails, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to invoke the “snapback option”, restoring all UN sanctions on Iran.

Reporter question: “What about the snapback option on Iran, do you support that?”

((President Donald Trump))

“We're not going to talk to you about that. We're going to work something out and then we'll talk after it's completed but it'll be a very satisfactory.”


Trump said the UAE and Israel will join the U.S. to formally sign the agreement in Washington in the next few weeks.

Patsy Widakuswara, VOA News, at the White House.


Jared Kushner is a senior adviser to President Trump entrusted with the White House Middle East portfolio.

I spoke to him about the agreement and its desired impact throughout the region.

(Jared Kushner Interview)

GVS: Two questions first.. what’s the impact worldwide? and secondly, for the region?

JK: So this is the first peace deal that has happened in the middle east in the last 26 years. The last one was between Israel and Jordan and only the third peace deal that’s happened in the last 70 years.

So this deal obviously changes everything. And what America's relationship with the Emirati’s, with the United Arab Emirates has always been a very advanced relationship. They’re one of our strongest military alliances, they have a fabulous military. What this does is it allows us to rethink all of the relations we have in the region. Obviously, we'll always respect the QME that we have with Israel. They have the consultation on what we do. But what we'll do now is do a re-evaluation and see what the potential options are to strengthen the Emirates, to strengthen Israel and to make sure that we can bring them closer together in a military alliance. But also, this deal brings new threats to the Emirates too. They took a big risk here, they’re right across the sea from Iran. And we want to make sure that, that their security is fully taken into account as part of this this deal which brings new threats to them.”

GVS: Do you expect Saudi Arabia next?

JK: I think a lot of countries are watching what happens, and very seriously considering going forward. I think people, again, they don't want to be stuck in the paradigm of the past. And they recognize that under President Trump, he's created a new Middle East.

You know, President Trump, America used to be dependent on Middle East for oil and gas. And thanks to President Trump's policies here in America, we're now the largest producer of energy in the world, and we're fully energy independent as a country. So, we don't need the Middle East anymore for, for energy, so that's allowed us to look at it through a different lens. So, we've been trying to lessen our military footprint.

GVS: Prime Minister Netanyahu says that the decision about annexation is suspended, that it’s temporary. Do you see the issue of annexation in the West Bank completely off the table, or is it suspended?”

JK: So right now, Israel has agreed to put their focus on building this historic alliance with an Arab country. Again, the first peace deal that's happened in the last 26 years. So right now, again, this is a new deal, we need to let the concrete settle. We're hearing every day about phone calls between the countries. You know, there's business deals being reached, to do artificial intelligence, to do health care research, you know, coronavirus research. And so, we're seeing a lot of good advancements already. I believe that, you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu is a, he's a very gifted politician, but he's also somebody who loves his country. And the first priority for his country right now is solidifying this new relationship with a great country in the region. And I believe that that's where he’ll put his energy, as well as trying to build strong relations with other Arab countries in the region as well.

GVS: Is it, I've read some have suggested that Prime Minister Netanyahu would not initiate the settlements without talking first to the United States.

JK: Yes.

GVS: Is that true?

JK: Yes.

GVS: So the United States makes the decision essentially whether to go or not go for the, more annexation?

JK: We don't, I wouldn't say we make the decision, but the understanding we have with Prime Minister Netanyahu is that we will consult on such things.

GVS: President Rouhani of Iran is very unhappy; he calls it a betrayal by the United Arab Emirates. What's the message for President Rouhani?”

JK: Look, I think that what they've done is they've, the Iranian leadership has betrayed the Iranian people. The Iranian people are peaceful people, they're a commercial people. They want to do business; they want to live better lives. But what they've done instead is they've been provoking the entire region. Iran's thrive through dividing and conquering and the region, which is why they've been funding Hezbollah, they’ve been funding Hamas, anyone who's a jihadist terror group has been getting their funding from Iran. Now thanks to President Trump, he cut off their oil exports. You know, when President Trump came into place, into presidency, they were exporting 2.6 million barrels of oil a day. Now that's down to almost nothing, which means that there's a lot less funding available for terrorists right now in the region. So, I would say to him that President Trump is looking to get along with everybody. He's ended wars, he's not starting wars. But he also has done it from strength. He's rebuilt the American military. He spent almost two trillion dollars rebuilding our military which was badly depleted when he came in. We have the strongest military in the world, but we're using that strong military to obviously eliminate terrorist threats, but also to make peace. So, for President Rouhani I would say, you know, it's time for the region to move forward. Let's stop being stuck in conflicts of the past. It's time for people to get together and to make peace. Peace is a noble thing. It's a good thing, and it's a very important thing if we want to have a world where everyone can have economic opportunity in order to live a better life than their parents.

GVS: Is there an offer on the table to Iran right now?

JK: There's always an offer to meet. President Trump is, you know, he thinks more like a businessman than a politician. Politicians think in very technical terms, they're afraid to take a meeting. President Trump says, I'll always take a meeting, but he's not going to pay for a meeting. Iran's made several offers to us: we'll go back into the JCPOA deal and allow us to export money and give us loans and all this stuff, and if you do that, we'll meet. And President Trump says look, I don't pay for meetings, right. If I like the old deal, I would go back into the old deal. But the problem with the old deal he's been very clear about - it gives Iran a basic glide path to a nuclear weapon. It doesn't stop the destabilization, the funding of terrorism they do in the region. So, President Trump's willing to talk. He's willing to meet. But again, his goal is very clear. He's going to be tough. He's, you know, he can be a little difficult to deal with from the other country’s point of view, but that's because he's fighting for America, he's a tough negotiator and he's not going make a bad deal. And so, if there is a real deal where there's, where nuclear weapons are off the table and we can make sure that it leads to a more prosperous Middle East, then I believe President Trump would sit and have discussions about it.

GVS: Jared, thank you. It's always nice to talk to you.

JK: Great. Greta, thank you very much. Great to meet with you.


Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.A.E.’s Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash, hailed the agreement as a historic breakthrough for Israel and the Arab world.

But many challenges remain.


"We announced the establishment of a full and formal peace between Israel and the UAE. It includes the mutual opening of embassies, direct flights, and many many other bilateral agreements.


"Let us try and develop this organic relationship that is developing with Israel in many, many areas and let's really try and get something tangible. We will begin, what I would call, a normal relationship with Israel in various, various areas, technology, investment, healthcare, agriculture, etc. leading to reciprocal diplomatic representation."


For decades diplomats saw the way to bring other Arab nations to agree to peace with Israel was a two-state solution: Creating a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel.

But the Abraham Accord does not address a Palestinian state, leaving the door open for other Arab nations to make peace with Israel on their own terms.

I spoke with Ron Dermer - Israel’s ambassador to the United States about the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

(Interview with Ambassador Ron Dermer)

RD: So it's certainly a breakthrough and as you said, it's the first time in over a quarter century, 26 years since the last time when we had a peace agreement with Jordan and of course the first one was our peace agreement with Egypt, in 1979.

Both of those peace agreements have weathered many, many storms in our region over the last over the last several decades. This I think is is also a unique breakthrough, because it's the first time in many, many, many, many, many years where you're really puncturing a paradigm that has governed the Middle East for way too long. And that paradigm said that the key, the keys to peace are the road to peace I should say, goes through Ramallah. The road to peace with any Arab state goes through Ramallah, and I cannot tell you Greta how many times senior US officials and officials from around the world would tell me either when I was in the Prime Minister's office or here as ambassador in the United States - they tell me, you know, if you make peace with, with the Palestinians you'll have peace with 22 Arab countries and I said well that's great as long as we have a Palestinian partner who wants to make peace with us?

And what you have in this breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates and this courageous step that MB-Zed, Mohammed bin Zayed has taken moving towards Israel is it says, well, the keys to peace are the road to peace with the Palestinians may go through Ramallah but the road to peace with an Arab state goes through that Arab capital. First it was Cairo, then it was Amman and now it's Abu Dhabi, and there can be other countries also. They can now move towards peace with Israel because of this breakthrough and I think we could move towards the end of a broader Arab Israeli conflict by taking many of these Arab states and becoming peace partners with them. And ultimately our hope Greta is that this will lead to a Israeli Palestinian peace as constructive forces within Palestinian society will recognize that hey, you know, the Arab states are not standing behind you waiting for you to make this historic decision they've already moved towards peace with Israel, you should come as well sit down and negotiate a historic compromise with Israel. That is our hope, and we expect to see actually other countries come online in the weeks and months ahead.

GVS: So there are two issues here on the board. One is the other countries to come on for and the other is, you know, there's still the Palestinian feel that remains. But coming on board. Do you anticipate that Sudan is going to be the next one in line I know that there's been some discussion with Sudan?

RD: Well, there's a lot of press reports that are out there I have to tell you something Greta and one of the most shocking things is that that we kept this a secret, and it was very close hold, and sort of hit everybody, and there were no leaks and I think that was because it was a very small team on the Israeli side a very small number of people on the Israeli side dealing with a very small number of people on the US side, and very small number of people on the Emirati side. And I think in keeping a very close hold that enabled us to reach that point. And so therefore I don't want to mention a specific country I think there are several possibilities of countries that can be, you know, who's going to be number two number three number four number five, and that can happen, I think in very short order.

And I'm hesitant to mention which country I believe is the next one because I want to make it that I want to do everything I can to ensure that there will be a second, a third, fourth one. But I can, I can assure you that there are several countries that there are right now are considering making this move and following the Emirates into normal diplomatic relations with Israel. And I think the Foreign Ministry of the Sudan several hours ago said that they would like to end hostilities with Israel there's a reason to have hostilities between Sudan and Israel and they bless the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. So I think that's a very good sign.

GVS: So play this out for me so we've had a number of states do a number of states to normalize relations with Israel and say Sudan, Saudi Arabia, other nations - you still have the remaining conflict with the Palestinians, how does this sort of play out what, there's still the, the contest between the Palestinians and Israelis?

RD: Right. Well, I think that the old approach was, we have to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict and a second we do, Israel will have peace with the broader Arab world and as I said before, that would be great if we had a Palestinian partner and wanted to make peace. Unfortunately we have not had never a Palestinian partner, that was willing to cross this psychological Rubicon. our hope was that if we were able to make peace agreements with our Arab neighbors, beyond just the agreement that we have with Egypt, and with Jordan and now with the United Arab Emirates and maybe three four or five more agreements that Constructive Forces within Palestinian society, and there are those forces, that they would be empowered and they would be able to confront the rejections.

GVS: How hands on was President Trump was he deeply involved in this or just sort of this was going on, mostly in the Middle East between UAE and Israel?

RD: It was actually conducted in Washington and I think he was updated all the time. Jared Kushner was very involved in it and Peace envoy Avi Berkowitz was involved in it. I was here. You know in contact with the Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. Yousef al-Otaiba was in contact with his, I think with Mohammed bin Zayed all the time. So we were able to work this out in Washington, but it also was, you know, we've had contacts happening for several years now. And there's been a change in the region which you have spoken about also for several years were the Arab states in the region for several years who is not an enemy but a potential ally confronting common challenges, one of those challenges was Iran.

I think what President Trump because of his Iran policy I think that’s part of the reason why we were able to surface it, and I give great credit to Jared Kushner, and Avi Berkowitz for recognizing the opportunity that existed, and really getting us over the finish line.


Israel says it is preparing for direct flights over what was once forbidden airspace - Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom’s relative silence about the Israel-U.A.E. deal speaks volumes throughout the Arab world.

Palestinian officials were quick to reject the deal calling for an urgent meeting of the Arab League.


"The Palestinian leadership announces that it rejects and denounces the surprise trilateral UAE, Israeli and U.S. announcement about a full normalization of relations between the Israeli occupation state and the United Arab Emirates in return for a claimed calm and temporary suspension of the annexation plot of the Palestinian lands and Israeli sovereignty over it."


Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani called the agreement “a betrayal.”

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the United States of failing to understand the complexities of the region.

((Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister))

"The (US administration) does not understand the situation in Lebanon, the situation in occupied Palestine, and think that putting on a show like yesterday's (UAE-Israel deal) would impact Palestine and the region's future."


Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia has been silent about the deal.

But Turkey’s foreign ministry accused the Emirates of hypocrisy.

The accord complicates the UAE’s already strained relations with neighboring Qatar which the Emirates accuses of funding terrorism.

But Gulf’s Arab states - Oman and Bahrain welcomed the agreement, as did Egypt and Jordan which already have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.


Yasmine Farouk is a visiting fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

We discussed the impact of the deal on the many agendas in the Middle East.

(Yasmine Farouk interview)

GVS: I want to talk to you about the UAE Israeli deal but first the news that Sudan is now talking to Israel, about a possible peace agreement, what do you think about that?

YF: Well, when you think about the relationship between Arab countries on Israel, you cannot exclude the role of the US and at the end Sudan right now is going through a transition it needs us support - it needs the US support to be off the list of terrorists states to be treated like a, and reintegrated into the international community. So I would say it's more than motivated this willingness and this will in Sudan, to be, to have better relations with the United States than anything else.

GVS: Now let me turn to the UAE Israeli deal. How is it, what's the reaction of the Palestinians to these two nations now opening up diplomatic diplomatic relations?

YF: Oh, the Palestinians have rejected and denounced the agreement because there was no coordination between the UAE and the Palestinian Authority and for some time now the relations have been tense and actually bad. So the Palestinians, do not see any wins for them in it.

GVS: Is there any win for them though that Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that he has suspended, he hasn't said firml, for at least a suspended annexation of settlements in the West Bank, is that not a at least a partial win for the Palestinians?

YF: From a Palestinian point of view and from an international law point of view, an extension was actually illegal so it was not something that was supposed to take place or to be raised in the first place. Plus, on the ground annexation has been de facto happening what was going to happen, is to actually officialize it. So to the Palestinians, this is not a win. A win has to go back to negotiating what has been recognized as the rights by international law, and this is not happening. Plus, you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu and also the Trump administration are talking about suspension, they are not talking about stopping or excluding the idea and so it really depends on domestic politics in Israel and the United States more on the Palestinians, themselves. Especially that, again, they were not part of this agreement.

GVS: Do the Palestinians feel that they were, I've seen the word tossed around a lot, betrayed by the United Arab Emirates?

YF: I think many of the countries in the Middle East, which is normalization is treason so many feel betrayed by the UAE move.

GVS: I've also read that there are about 200,000 Palestinians, living in the United Arab Emirates, what does it mean for them?

YF: You know, none of the Middle Eastern countries are democratic countries or countries where you have a strict abidance by human rights and when you are in the UAE or any other Gulf countries, Palestinians are usually in a weak position so they know very well that if they try to mobilize. Well those Palestinians living there will lose their jobs, and they can go back to Palestine, so I don't expect any kind of mobilizations, mobilization from them there especially then they have seen over the last year and this year, their brothers and neighboring Saudi Arabia have been arrested for political activity.

GVS: Is there some path to negotiate the negotiating table with Israel and the Palestinians?

YF: I think the Palestinian position since the beginning of the Trump administration has been that they want to sit on the table to discuss what has already been recognized as the rights and what has shifted radically and tremendously by the Trump administration, you know the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, closing down the Palestinian Authority mission here in Washington DC. These were not moves that encourage the Palestinians to believe that there is a useful dialogue between a with the Trump administration or with Israel. This is all about the interests of the three countries involved, again the UAE, Israel and the United States and not necessarily about the Palestinians or other parties in the region.

GVS: Do the Palestinians ever think that the United States could play the role of sort of mediator between the Palestinians and Israel, or are things like moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem does that made things you know more difficult to the United States as sort of the moderator between, between the mediator between Israel and the Palestinians?

YF: Well it definitely made it more difficult because, you know, in the region you already had reservations about the US role in mediation and whether the US is an unbiased mediator or not. But these moves were clearly seen, and were clearly against the Palestinians because these were all moves that were rejected by the by the Palestinians that were considered not so long ago to be red lines that will only be decided upon with after an agreement or through negotiation and not just imposed by the stronger parties. So definitely the legitimacy of the United States as a mediator between the Palestinians and the Israelis has taken a big hit.

GVS: I know what President Rouhani of Iran has already said, and you know he feels betrayed by the by the UAE, but what about the people of Iran?

YF: I think the mood in Iran is like a lot in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue is not, it's not just about you know the Palestinians themselves, you're talking about the region where there is a common struggle against injustice and against repression. So you have, in all countries you have the. the ideologues, those who adhere to the official ideology of the state or the party involved, but you also have people who are, who could be against the Iranian regime, against authoritarianism and again, against the unjust policies that Israel has against the Palestinians and some of the files of the relationship between the authority and Israel.


For Israel the deal comes as the country is politically divided with the prime minister facing a corruption trial.

VOA’s Linda Gradstein is covering the story for us in Jerusalem.

I talked to her about the reaction to the deal in Israel.

(Linda Gradstein Interview)

GVS: Has Israel agreed to a permanent stop on the annexation of settlements, or is this merely a temporary suspension of them?

LG: Well, it depends who you ask right? And President Trump said annexation is off the table. Prime Minister Netanyahu said it's not off the table. That said, I find it very hard to believe that after signing an agreement for full normalization with the UAE, again, it's the only the third Arab country in Israel's history to make peace with Israel, that they would then turn around and say, “oh, we changed our minds and we're going to go ahead with the annexation” I mean, Israel still controls 60% of the West Bank. That's where all the Jewish settlements are built. So Israel continues to control the area. It's not that they've given it up. They haven't officially annexed it to Israel. And at least some analysts were saying that Netanyahu was kind of looking for a way to climb down from the tree, that the international outcry wasn't worth it, that he didn't really want to annex the settlements. He was just being pushed to do so by the his very hardline coalition partners.

GVS: What does the UAE get out of this? Why did they do this? If the issue the primary issue, is the annexation, or or lack thereof, of the territory of the settlements in the West Bank? Why did what did the UAE get out of it?

LG: Well, I think they first of all get access perhaps to Israeli arms and technology. They get access to a more united front against Iran. I think that the UAE is very concerned about Iran, and concerned that the world won't stop an Iranian attack. I mean, if you look at a map, they're very close together. And so I think that there, I think they also get sort of a strengthening of the moderate forces in the Middle East against Iran. They get access to Israeli, all kinds of technology. Some of this was going on before. But it's also possible that they'll get access to some of the more advanced weapon systems, both from Israel and from the United States.

GVS: What does the Palestinian Authority think about this number one, and number two, what about Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip? What's that? What's its reaction?

LG: Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are extremely angry about this agreement. The sort of fiction or the idea for many years was that peace with between Israel and other Arab countries is dependent on at least progress, if not a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. And the Palestinians feel that the Gulf countries that the Emirates have betrayed them by signing a normalization deal with Israel without getting anything for the Palestinians. Now the Emirates have tried to portray this as well, we got annexation off the table. The Palestinians aren't buying it. They're saying it means an end to the two-state solution. They're saying it means a betrayal of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

GVS: You mentioned, Iran, President Rouhani has described this as a betrayal. Is that you know, is that resonating in Israel? Or is that just to be expected? They would say in what does it really mean sort of long term?

LG: I think it's pretty much to be expected. And I think the sense in Israel is that this agreement further isolates Iran. In other words, you've got Israel lining up with all of the moderate Arab forces, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, even Lebanon, I mean, Lebanon, which has been traditionally very anti-Israel said that perhaps or something thing to talk about. And then on the other side, you have Iran, Hizbollah and Turkey. So Israel feels that it's kind of it's turning around the middle east a little bit, and Israel is with the forces of moderation. You know, the other thing is that Israel is in the Middle East, but it's not really of the Middle East, but it always wanted to be. And this agreement with the Emirates kind of gives it the sense that it can be more of the Middle East.


That’s all the time we have.

My thanks to Jared Kushner ...

Ambassador Ron Dermer …

Yasmine Farouk ...

and Linda Gradstein for joining us.

For the latest news visit

And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Greta.

Thank you for being Plugged In.