Jan 11, 2021 - World

Jared Kushner briefed Jake Sullivan on Trump's Middle East policy

Kushner (C) in the Oval Office with Trump and Brian Hook. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

Jared Kushner has briefed incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan on the Trump administration’s Middle East policies, David Friedman, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Israel, told a closed hearing in the Israeli parliament on Monday.

Why it matters: Friedman said Kushner had briefed Sullivan in particular on the Abraham Accords process through which four Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel, according to lawmakers who attended the hearing. Trump's advisers hope President-elect Biden will continue that process and encourage other countries like Saudi Arabia to sign on.

Driving the news: The call took place about two weeks ago, several days before Kushner traveled to Saudi Arabia for a summit of Gulf leaders. It's unclear whether Kushner brought along a message from Sullivan to any of the leaders.

  • White House envoy Avi Berkowitz also briefed a former Obama administration official who might be in line for a Middle East-related job under Biden on the normalization agreements, a Trump administration official tells me.
  • According to Israeli lawmakers who attended Monday's briefing, Friedman said he recently met with his Obama era predecessor, Dan Shapiro, and briefed him on the Trump administration’s work on the Middle East over the last four years. Shapiro made clear to Friedman at the meeting that he was not part of the Biden transition team.

Behind the scenes: Friedman presented the Knesset's foreign relations committee with his thoughts about what the Biden administration will and should do regarding Israel and the region, lawmakers who attended the briefing say.

  • Friedman said Biden is a friend of Israel. He also said he expects the Biden administration to press Israel on the issue of West Bank settlements, resume aid to the Palestinian Authority and continue to raise Israel's ties to China, an issue that Friedman said Israel should take more seriously.

Friedman also said Biden would likely attempt to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

  • He specifically raised concerns about the influence of former secretary of State John Kerry and former national security adviser Susan Rice on Biden's Iran policy, despite the fact that neither will be working on the Iran portfolio, one Israeli lawmaker said.
  • Friedman said that Israel should not seek an immediate confrontation with Biden over Iran, but should instead ask the Biden administration to start a dialogue with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries before deciding to return the nuclear deal.

Unsurprisingly, Friedman said Biden shouldn't roll back Trump's policies on Jerusalem or Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. He also contended that a fight with Israel over settlements would lead nowhere.

  • Friedman claimed Saudi Arabia would have recognized Israel within a year if Trump won re-election.
  • But he did have one piece of criticism for his boss, saying Trump's relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had occasionally been "too warm" and that Biden would be more critical of Turkey.

Go deeper: Netanyahu demands full control over Israel's Iran policy, sparking pushback.

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