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Israel-UAE deal: US pressures Saudi Arabia to attend Israel summit in Abu Dhabi: Report

Israel, the UAE and the US are due to hold their first trilateral summit on the normalisation deal in Abu Dhabi on Monday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senior US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner make joint statements about the Israeli-United Arab Emirates peace accords in Jerusalem, 30 August 2020 (Reuters)

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday said that Saudi envoys may arrive in Abu Dhabi on Monday as the senior adviser to US President Donald Trump tries to persuade Saudi Arabia to join the White House signing ceremony of the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, scheduled for October. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously announced that an Israeli delegation and top aides to Trump will fly together to the UAE on Monday for talks on cementing the two Middle East countries' deal to normalise relations.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, US Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and other US officials will travel together with an Israeli delegation led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Netanyahu said in a video statement on Wednesday. 

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The high-level meeting would be the first between the three parties since Trump announced the controversial US-brokered deal on 13 August.

The deal has been denounced by Palestinians from across the political spectrum, who dismissed it as tantamount to "treason" and "a stab in the back". 

"Ahead of the planned event in Washington, Kushner and his aides have recently been working with [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed] bin Salman to approve the dispatching of high-ranking Saudi envoys to Abu Dhabi as early as tomorrow, in parallel with the arrival of the Israeli delegation led by the head of the National Security Council," the paper said.

Middle East Eye has previously revealed that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pulled out of a planned visit to Washington DC to meet Netanyahu after he feared that the news had leaked and that his presence in the US capital would become a "nightmare".

Sources told MEE that Trump and Kushner have been pushing for the meeting to happen to relaunch bin Salman's image as a young Arab peacemaker and shore up regional support for the deal between Israel and the UAE.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, there is currently a disagreement in Riyadh between bin Salman and his father, King Salman, over normalisation.

Whereas the king opposes peace agreements with Israel, the crown prince "demonstrates greater openness, but has yet to give his consent to the move".

However, the relationship between Kushner and bin Salman has already led the Saudis to approve the passage of Monday's El Al flight to Abu Dhabi over Saudi Arabia, a first in history, the paper added. 

'Meaningless spectacle' 

Meanwhile, Israeli journalist Barak Ravid has revealed that an Israeli delegation will travel to the UAE in the next two weeks to discuss the security aspects of the deal. It will be led by the Ministry of Defense director general, Amir Eshel, a  former commander of the Israeli Air Force, Ravid reported..

'[Arab and Muslim leaders] will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region'
- Hanan Ashrawi, senior PLO member

Eshel's delegation was originally slated to attend Monday’s summit, but a trilateral decision by the UAE, US and Israel has led to limiting Monday's talks to the economic and civilian discussions, and having a separate security and defence dialogue later in September. 

Kushner, O'Brien and the rest of the US delegation met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday to discuss the trip to Abu Dhabi.

"We believe that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates' lead and normalise relations with Israel," O'Brien told reporters after talks at Netanyahu's residence.

He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.

Netanyahu meanwhile said that Israel is in secret talks with more Arab states on normalising ties. 

"There are many more unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalise relations with the state of Israel," he said.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, said Kushner and his team were "scrambling to convince as many Arab and Muslim leaders as possible" to attend a White House signing event and give Trump a boost ahead of the US presidential election on 3 November.

"They will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region," Ashrawi said.

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