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White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told CNN on Tuesday that he expects more Arab countries to follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in normalizing relations with Israel before Palestinian leadership agrees to a peace deal.

Why it matters: After hosting a White House signing ceremony on Tuesday that formalized diplomatic ties between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, President Trump told reporters that he expects seven to nine more countries — including possibly Saudi Arabia — to agree to a similar move.

The big picture: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement Tuesday that "no peace, security or stability will be achieved for anyone in the region" without an end to Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

  • He also warned that "attempts to bypass" Palestinian leadership will have "serious repercussions" for Israel and the U.S.
  • In a major blow last week, the Palestinian Authority failed to get the Arab League's foreign ministers to endorse a resolution criticizing the Israel-UAE deal. For decades, Arab League foreign ministers have endorsed every draft resolution the Palestinians have put forward.

What they're saying: "The Palestinians see that [Trump] has a lot of sway with the Israeli public. Israel trusts President Trump that he knows what their security needs are," Kushner argued.

  • "He knows what their bottom lines are. And they do believe that he's the only person that can actually make this deal. But I think that, again, you're not going to make a deal until it's ready. We do believe that before there's a deal with the Palestinians, you are going to have more countries normalize with Israel," he continued.
  • "And when the Palestinian leadership decides that they're ready, then that's when a deal can be made. ... We can't want peace more than the Palestinian leadership wants to make peace. So when they're ready to do it, we'll be there to help facilitate it."

Go deeper: UAE minister says Israel agreement will include two-state solution reference

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Scoop: Azerbaijan seeks to mediate between Turkey and Israel

Aliyev (L) with Erdoğan in 2018. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty

Turkey and Israel both played key roles in Azerbaijan's recent victory over Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, several weeks after the ceasefire, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev is trying to mend relations between his two allies, senior Israeli officials tell me.

The big picture: Drones and other weapons systems from both Turkey and Israel helped Azerbaijan gain military superiority over Armenia. But relations between Turkey and Israel have been frozen for most of the past decade.

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Scoop: Israel tries to use Milley as conduit to Biden on Iran

Milley in a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty

Israel used the recent visit by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to pass on several messages to the incoming Biden administration regarding Iran and other regional developments, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel is very concerned about President-elect Biden's plans on Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal, but has yet to open direct contacts with the incoming administration. Milley is a potential bridge to Biden's White House because he is expected to stay on beyond the transition.

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Gulf states wary of U.S.-Iran tensions ahead of Biden's inauguration

Trump at a Gulf Summit in Riyadh in 2017. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi handout via Getty

The UAE and Saudi Arabia will be closely monitoring any moves from Washington and Tehran over a delicate few weeks ahead.

Why it matters: Jan. 3 will mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in Baghdad. In the past few weeks, there have been echoes of the tensions that preceded that U.S. attack.