A top Trump administration official has said that Indonesia could expect up to $2 billion in US development aid if it joins the current drive by Washington to have Arab and Muslim countries openly recognise Israel.
“We’re talking to them about it. If they’re ready, they’re ready, and if they are then we’ll be happy to even support more financially than what we do,” said Adam Boehler, the CEO of the US International Development Finance Corp., in an interview for Bloomberg published on Tuesday.
Earlier, Oman and Indonesia were identified as two countries with which talks have reportedly advanced, and normalisation of their ties with Israel could be announced before US President Donald Trump leaves office on 20 January, diplomatic sources told the Jerusalem Post.
At the same time a Democratic congressional aide was cited by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as urging Indonesia to be wary of the reported proposal, emerging weeks ahead of the 20 January inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“If I were the Indonesians, I wouldn’t bank on any promises the administration is making now. The Development Finance Corp. was designed as a development tool, not an incentive for political developments,” said the aide.
Frenzy of ‘Normalisation Deals’ with Israel
US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner has been spearheading the current administration’s drive to bring forward agreements on normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim states.
Until September 2020 only two Arab nations - Egypt and Jordan - had officially recognised Israel. The two countries bordering Israel signed peace agreements, under US mediation, in 1979 and 1994 respectively.
After a flurry of US mediation, the Abraham Accords - a joint statement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, were signed on 13 August 2020. Subsequently, the term was used to refer collectively to agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
After the deal, hailed by President Trump as a "foundation for a comprehensive peace" across the Middle East, Morocco hosted a US-Israel delegation on 22 December to sign a spate of agreements, and Sudan became the third Arab country in weeks to agree to normalise ties with Israel on 23 October 2020.
At the same time, US President Donald Trump removed Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, thus unblocking economic aid and investment. As he made the announcement, Trump said "at least five more" Arab states wanted to follow in these countries’ footsteps.
Hopes were voiced that Oman and Saudi Arabia could also agree to normalise ties.
According to Adam Boehler, however, his organisation could not supply these two countries with funding as the DFC cannot invest directly in ‘higher-income’ states.
‘Explosion of Peace’
Adam Boehler, a long-time friend of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, was interviewed in Jerusalem, where he joined Kushner who led a joint Israeli-American delegation to Morocco for high-level talks.
Earlier, Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was hailed on Monday by Jared Kushner as a move that resulted in an “explosion of peace” in the region.
“In 2017, President Trump was strongly warned that recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would set off an explosion in the Middle East,” Kushner was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel, adding:
“As it turned out, there has been an explosion, just not the kind of explosion the experts thought might happen. President Trump’s bold decisions led to an explosion of peace.”
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem was widely denounced by the Arab world.
“It turns out Jerusalem is not the cause of the problem — it is the core of the solution,” Kushner said, as he prepared to join other senior White House staff and their their Israeli counterparts for the first-ever nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to Morocco’s capital Rabat.
Another historic first flight with the team! 🇺🇸🇮🇱🇲🇦 Tel Aviv - Rabat pic.twitter.com/ZMuI5IIEgZ— Avi Berkowitz (@aviberkow45) December 22, 2020
The sides hoped to advance the Israel-Morocco normalisation agreement announced on 10 December, when they moved to reopen diplomatic missions in each country.
National Security Adviser and head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, on behalf of PM Netanyahu, met with King of Morocco Mohammed VI in his Rabat palace, together with US Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner. pic.twitter.com/BjCdvlj1jp— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) December 22, 2020
Asked if any other normalisation agreement were on the table, Kushner said he was “very hopeful that there are more peace deals to be had.”
While President-elect Joe Biden has welcomed the previous agreements of states to normalise relations with Israel, some lawmakers have criticised their ‘transactional nature’ of the penned accords that serve the bilateral interests of the parties involved.
Thus, the UAE is poised to receive F-35 ‘stealth’ fighter jets as part of a broader arms deal worth $23 billion aimed at deterring ‘potential threats from Iran’.
The Trump administration has recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, and Sudan has been scrubbed off the US list of states that ‘sponsor terrorists’.
Adam Boehler voiced the opinion that the Biden administration would support further moves in this direction.
“I think they will take what we did and take it further, and I hope they do and I’ll be there to support them,” he said.