On-the-Record Press Call on Normalization of Relations Between Morocco and Israel

Office of the Press Secretary                  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2020                                                                                                                                            ON-THE-RECORD PRESS CALL
ON NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS BETWEEN MOROCCO AND ISRAEL

Via Teleconference

 11:23 A.M. EST

    MR. VASQUEZ:  Hey.  Good morning, everybody.  We have another historic day today, another breakthrough.  I have with me Senior Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner, who will speak to you today on their good news regarding Morocco.  He will give some brief remarks, and then we’ll take a couple of questions on this topic.

    This call will be on the record.  And with that, I will turn it over to Jared.

    MR. KUSHNER:  Thank you very much, Eddie.  And thank you all for joining us.  Very, very pleased today to be talking to you all about the agreement that’s been reached today between Israel and Morocco.  This is the fourth peace agreement that President Trump and his administration have been able to broker in the last four months.  This comes on the heels on four years of very, very hard work and very intense diplomacy that has occurred.

    As part of this deal, Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel.  They will grant overflights and direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis.

    They'll reopen the liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately, with the intention to open the embassies in the near future.  They'll be promoting economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies.

    Also, today we announce that America will be recognizing Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara.  This is something that's been talked about for a long time but something that seemed inevitable at this point and something that we think advances the region and helps bring more clarity to where things are going.

    And I do think that this, again, will be a great part of the President's efforts towards bringing peace and stability and understanding in the world.  We're seeing now the great success that the Abraham Accords have had so far.  People are seeing the nonstop visitation between Israelis and Arabs and Muslims throughout the world -- you know, going to each other's countries, whether it's going to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Tel Aviv.

    And the cultural exchange that's been happening and the welcoming has been really beautiful and, I think, you know, greater than anyone anticipated when we started this process.

    Seeing the success in the person-to-person relationships, the religion-to-religion relationships, and the business-to-business relationships, we're seeing that a lot of countries want to keep this progress going.  This has been held back for so long by old thinking and by stalled process, and we finally had a breakthrough four months ago, and we're continuing to push the region forward.  And, again, the more people can have interaction with each other, the less the extremists and the jihadists have to justify the terrible things they do in the name and the perversion of the Islamic faith.

    So bringing Jews and Muslims and Christians together has been a core focus of the President's efforts.  That's why he did his first trip to Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two Holy Mosques; and then Israel; and then Rome, to the Vatican.  And that's been a real effort of his.

    If you look back at the last four years when the President came into power, Iran was greatly empowered.  You know, they'd just done the terrible JCPOA deal, ISIS was running rampant, all of America's allies in the region felt very alienated, and obviously there'd been a lot of issues that had to be dealt with.

    Now we have peace sprouting in the Middle East.  You know, President Trump took a contrarian approach -- one that was different than not just Democrat but also Republican administrations.  Just a different approach than the experts had been taking in the region.  And the fruits of these efforts have been become very apparent, but we also believe that there is a lot more fruits to come in the short, medium, and long term.

    So this has taken a lot of work and a lot of trust that we've been able to build.  I was in Morocco two years ago, with the King, where we had an Iftar dinner together.  We've been in contact with him and his team constantly over the last couple of years, working through the different issues.

    Obviously we speak to the Israelis with frequency, and we've been pursuing America's interests in the region, which is counter-extremism, counter-terror, reduce the U.S. footprint in the region, create more of a security infrastructure there so that there's less need for American troops and less conflict that can promote economic opportunity and give people the opportunity to thrive in life so that they can get out of these old conflicts that unfortunately have held people back.

    So this is really a great day for peace, a great day for Morocco, a great day for America, a great day for Israel, and a great day for the world.

    So thank you all for joining us.  Now I'll take a few questions on this topic.

    Q    Yeah, hey, good morning, Jared and --

    MR. KUSHNER:  Good morning, John.

    Q    -- and Eddie.  Hope everything is good.  What are the -- what are the chances -- and I’m sort of led to believe that they’re not good -- that you might eventually have a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia?

    MR. KUSHNER:  So, first of all, what I would say again, if you go back, you know, four years ago, that notion was unthinkable, right?  Not something that people saw as a prospect.  If you look at where we’ve come over the last six months, the region has essentially gone from a solid now to a liquid, and it feels like there’s a lot more fluidity.

    They’re watching very, very closely what’s happening with all these different normalizations and peace treaties, and they’re seeing the tremendous economic impact that’s happening, the tremendous interchange of people.  And I think they’re watching that very, very closely.

    Saudi did grant the overflight rights to Israel and to others, which obviously is a major step that had been in place since 1948, and so that was in place for a long time, and so that was a big thing that they did.  Again, it would have been unthinkable six months ago, which, again, connects the region.

    Then Bahrain, which is very close to Saudi Arabia, went forward and made peace with Israel as well, which, again, was a big step.

    I will say, on my last trip, I was in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  The purpose of that trip was really on helping to resolve the Gulf rift that had been in place for the last three and a half years, and I think we made substantial progress on that issue.  I think having a unified GCC creates more stability in the region.

    But again, you know, President Trump's focus has been on the end result, saying, “Look, we want, you know, countries working together.  We want a security footprint that’s balanced, where people are paying their fair share and everyone is working together.  We want more stability, which can create economic opportunity.”

    President Trump's policy has led America to be energy independent, so our relationship with the Middle East now is really, you know, in the context of not allowing places for extremism to rise, and then fighting both the financial battle against those who are funding terrorism, but also against the long-term ideological battle against extremism.  And we've done a lot of great work on that with both Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the entire GCC.  So having them united is, again, another step forward.

    So I do think that Israel and Saudi Arabia -- Israel and Saudi Arabia coming together and having full normalizations, at this point, is an inevitability.  But the timeframe, obviously, will come -- is something that has to be worked out.  But obviously, you need strong U.S. leadership in the region in order to achieve that, and it's something that we've worked hard to take it from where it was to where it is, but I think it's something that we will see.  It's just a function of how we pursue to get there.

    So, again, we've made historic advancements over the last four years.  We've taken a different approach to the region.  We've done a different kind of diplomacy than had been done in the decades before.  But through this effort, we're achieving different results and ones that are being universally appreciated by all the parties, both in the region and throughout the world.

    And again, today is just another, you know, great breakthrough for the world.

    Q    Hi, it’s Steve Herman from the Voice of America.  I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about what went into the recognition of the Western Sahara territory by the President.  Was Spain and the United Nations involved?  What was the thinking by the administration in that breakthrough and making the recognition announcement today?

    MR. KUSHNER:  I think several things.  You know, the first one is obviously the strong relationship that America and Morocco have.

    You know, it goes all the way back to 19- -- to 1777, I think, when Morocco was the first country to recognize America when America declared its independence.  And then, you know, when you go further with that, you know, Morocco is a great trade partner, a great intelligence partner, a great partner in many ways with America.  So Morocco-America relationship is very, very strong.

    This is an issue that's been out there for a long time, and, quite frankly, there's just been no progress on a resolution.  And the hope is that this step is -- number one, is it's recognizing the inevitability of what is going to occur, but it also can possibly break the logjam to help advance the issues in the Western Sahara, where we want the Polisario people to have a better opportunity to live a better life.  And the President felt like this conflict was holding them back, as opposed to bringing it forward.

    So this recognition will strengthen America's relationship with Morocco.  It recognizes the inevitable.  But then also, the fact that we were able to get Morocco and Israel to have this breakthrough -- I think there's over a million Israelis that have Moroccan descendants.  And there's great, great relations between, you know, Morocco and Israel.  And, you know, the King of Morocco and his father and his grandfather have always been very tolerant and good to the Jewish people, particularly in World War Two.

    So it's been a tolerant society, but, for whatever reason, these diplomatic relations did not exist.  And this is something that, again, will only further make the region stable by having this breakthrough.

    Q    Hi.  Jonathan Guyer, The American Prospect.  I’ve noticed the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, these are all kingdoms that jailed political dissidents; of course, Saudi Arabia killed Khashoggi.  What are you doing to advance human rights amid all of these peace deals, Mr. Kushner?

    MR. KUSHNER:  So, look, you know, when we went to the Middle East to look at how we can push forward, we focused on what are America's interests.  I think we recognized upfront that, you know, some of these countries share our values more than other countries do.  But what we've tried to do is establish strong relations.  We’ve pursued our interests.

    You know, ISIS was not too good with regards to human rights.  They were killing Christians.  They were, you know, enslaving women.  They were, you know, raping and brutally murdering people.  I mean, it was not a pretty situation.  And so we worked very closely by rebuilding trust with our allies to take back the territorial caliphate of ISIS.

    In addition to that, obviously, Iran -- which chants “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” -- had been given a great amount of resources.  They're also not great with human rights.  They kill protesters.  They just executed a famous wrestler for having a different point of view.

    And, basically, you know, we -- the more we've reduced their funding through our sanctions, the less conflict there's been in the Middle East.  And that's been -- obviously allowed us to have the breathing space to make the moves that we've made and give these countries the ability to make the peace that I think that they think benefits their countries long term.

    So, again, we focused on pursuing America's interests in the region.  Obviously, we don't share the same values with all these countries; some countries we do more than others.  But in areas where we have disagreements, having a good relationship has enabled us to push for greater progress on some of these issues.  I think the President has gotten over 50 hostages back from overseas at this point.  More successful than maybe any President before him in a four-year period.  And this comes from having relationships with people who, again, don't run their governments the way that we run our government.

    So, you know, part of being in political service is you don't necessarily get to choose who you're -- you know, who leads these different countries.  But we obviously respect the sovereignty of different places, and we work with the leadership to, again, advance America's interests wherever we can.  And I think that we've been able to do this.

    And deals like this -- you know, peace deals -- first of all, are great for the world, great for the individual countries, but they're great for America because, again, the more that we can create peace and tolerance and understanding and interconnectivity between countries, the better off the world will be and the less conflict we have to be sending our soldiers all over the world to fight.

    And President Trump has been very clear about trying to end wars.  Over four years, he hasn't started wars.  He's ended wars.  He showed strength.  I mean, he's struck when needed.  He's enforced his red lines.  He’s liked, he's respected, and he's feared, which is critical in the Middle East and in those areas towards making progress.

    And again, I think that his unusual approach of both personnel and style and attitude, but the relationships he's made have yielded results.  So, again, if you look at where the Middle East was four years ago and where it is today, he's really created a much different paradigm, and that's been a great effort that I've personally spent a lot of time on.

    And again, we've taken a lot of criticism along the way of the different moves we've made, but the results speak for themselves.

    I think that's enough for now.  Thank you, guys, very much.  And good luck with this.  And just congratulations to all of us.  A peace deal is a great thing.  So hopefully that will continue to advance the region and the world.  Thank you so much.
                         END                      11:38 A.M. EST

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