Biden foreign policy adviser hails Trump for forging Israel-UAE deal

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Melech Friedman and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner applaud after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 13, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Melech Friedman and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner flank President Trump. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A top foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden applauded the Trump administration’s role in helping to broker the new peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, saying the deal was a “positive accomplishment” for the president’s foreign policy.

The rare note of limited praise for the president from the campaign of his rival came from Jake Sullivan, a leading foreign policy adviser to Biden, during an interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”

“It’s good for the region, it’s good for Israel, it’s good for peace,” said Sullivan when asked about the peace deal that normalizes relations between the two countries in exchange for Israel agreeing to postpone plans to annex occupied territory in the West Bank.

Even as Sullivan hailed the deal, which is due to be signed Tuesday at the White House, he was careful to quickly argue that Trump leveraged groundwork laid by the Obama administration.

“You’re going to see him tout this with a classic Trumpian oversell, so bottom line we should praise this deal for what it is but not for more than what it is,” Sullivan said. “It’s been a long time coming. This is not a bolt out of the blue.”

Sullivan said Biden “welcomed this step” to formalize a deal, contending that momentum had been building for some time. “It’s been an open secret in the region that the Gulf countries and Israel have been getting closer and closer together,” he said.

Sullivan was a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Obama-era State Department. The interview covered a variety of foreign policy topics, including the mood in Iran since the death of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the internment of the Uighurs in China.

Asked how Biden would approach the relationship with Saudi Arabia given the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi nearly two years ago by agents of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Sullivan said the Biden administration “would put values, human rights and human dignity on the agenda in this relationship in a way that has been completely taken off the table by Trump.” Yet when pressed to take a position on sanctions against Mohammed, the country’s de facto ruler who the CIA has concluded was responsible for ordering Khashoggi’s assassination, Sullivan demurred.

“On the specific question of sanctions against MBS, I think the vice president would want to go through an intelligence-based assessment of who exactly is responsible up to what level,” Sullivan said. “He’s not going to prejudge or pre-commit on the specific issue of sanctions vis-à-vis MBS, but he will not take off the table sanctions against whomever he deems appropriate to pursue sanctions against.”

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