Kushner says Abraham Accords ‘more important than ever’ as Israel pounds Gaza

Reuters | October 25, 2023

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By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Hadeel Al Sayegh and Rachna Uppal

RIYADH (Reuters) -Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, said on Wednesday the Abraham Accords he helped broker between Israel and Arab countries were now “more important than ever”.

His comments were made at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh, where earlier the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sounded fresh alarms on the Israel-Hamas war.

The finance minister of Bahrain, which alongside the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, normalized relations with Israel under the accords, said it was extremely important to continue building bridges, when asked about the U.S.-brokered treaties.

Washington helped broker the Abraham Accords in 2020, a series of normalization agreements between Israel and Arab nations, the first of their kind since 1994.

The comments showed how an event traditionally focused on cutting deals has been overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas war and the bombardment of Gaza.

“What we see is more jitters in what has already been an anxious world,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told an FII audience.

“And on a horizon that had plenty of clouds, one more – and it can get deeper.”

Kushner, a former adviser to Trump, said Israel’s security from its neighbors and ability to protect its citizens was “absolutely crucial…non-negotiable.”

Palestinians need the “opportunity to live a better life” but “it’s not just saying, ‘let’s create a state’, it has to be a state that can function and thrive,” he added.

Kushner said protests against Israel were “a disturbing scenario” and said people protesting for Palestinians are “missing the point.”

“What they should be doing is protesting the Palestinian leadership; they should be protesting Hamas. They should be saying, ‘Give these people the ability to live a better life.'”

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in cities in capitals around the world against Israel’s bombing campaign and siege of Gaza.

At the start of the annual conference on Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon encouraged Saudi Arabia not to abandon a United States-led initiative to establish official relations with Israel.

Sources have told Reuters that Riyadh was putting the plans on ice, a blow for U.S. President Joe Biden and Israel.

Kushner said changes in Saudi Arabia over the past half-decade “changed the trajectory of the Middle East” and allowed “things like the Abraham Accords to occur.”

Dimon was among several Wall Street titans who sounded pessimistic tones about the global economy.

Georgieva said the IMF’s first concern was “the tragic loss of life” at the war’s epicenter, though more widespread impacts were already apparent.

Nearly 6,000 Palestinians have been killed by the strikes on Gaza that Israel has said aim to destroy Hamas after its militants killed 1,400 people in a one-day rampage.

Long-term consequences included children being forced out of school, as well as the impact on neighboring countries’ tourism sectors, Georgieva said.

“Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan. There, the channels of impact are already visible,” Georgieva said. “Uncertainty is a killer for tourists inflows. Investors are going to be shy to go to that place.”

Commenting on the economic backdrop, Georgieva said the world had been living in the “fantasy lane” for nearly 20 years before the rise in interest rates in the last 18 months.

“We are not thrilled with going from zero to five so quickly, but we are there,” she said, referring to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s main policy rate.

“So now … our call to everybody is: buckle up. Make sure that you understand interest rates are here to stay for longer.”

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Hadeel Al Sayegh and Rachna Uppal in Riyadh, Maha El Dahan, Yousef Saba and Nadine Awadalla in Dubai; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Bernadette Baum, John Stonestreet and Mike Harrison)


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