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Trump’s Nat’l Security Advisor: Saudi Arabia, Israel peace deal could be next

President Donald Trump speaks as National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, right, listens in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 13, 2019. (Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/TNS)
August 17, 2020

President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said Sunday that Saudi Arabia may be the next country to form a peace agreement with Israel, following the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel signed last week, known as the Abraham Accord.

In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, O’Brien responded to questions about whether Saudi Arabia might be the next to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel.

Asked about Saudi Arabia, O’Brien said, “Look, it’s possible that they could be next.”

“The three great holy sites in Islam, as you know, Chuck, are Mecca, Medina, and the king of Saudi Arabia is the keeper of those two sites,” O’Brien continued. “But the other site is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and King Hussein of Jordan and Jordan supervises that. One of the great things about this agreement is you’re now going to have direct flights from those fantastic airports, both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, into Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.”

O’Brien said he hopes the latest deal between Israel and the UAE serves as a “confidence builder” for pilgrimages from Arab countries to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“I’m hoping that King Salman and MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, see that development and realize that this would be great for Saudi Arabia, it would be great for the Arab people and for the Islamic world as well,” O’Brien continued. “So, we’re hopeful. We’ll have to see what happens, but we’re talking to a number of countries in addition to Saudi Arabia.”

To date, only three Islamic countries have signed formal peace agreements with Israel. Those countries include Egypt, Jordan and, most recently, the United Arab Emirates.

The new agreement between Israel and the UAE puts a pause on Israeli efforts to annex parts of the West Bank, an area in which the Palestinian Authority has contested with Israel for control. Under the new agreement, Israel will abide by the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal proposed by Trump in January. The January proposal lays out a possible map for how to divide areas contested by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but further negotiations would have to take place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Asked about whether the Trump administration supports Israel in annexing the West Bank, O’Brien said, “The contours of the West Bank have to be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

O’Brien said there are parts of the West Bank that Israel would like to have and there are parts of the West Bank that Palestinians would like to have.

During his remarks, O’Brien credited the Trump administration, which he said “quarterbacked” much of the Israel-UAE agreement. He also credited Israeli Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for their “courage” in reaching the agreement.