US envoy: Trump admin turning Middle East from challenge to positive force

Middle East

The administration of US President Donald Trump has taken a positive approach to the Middle East that has borne fruit, US Envoy for Economic Normalization in the Middle East, Aryeh Lightstone, said at The Jerusalem PostKhaleej Times conference this week.“How many times have people looked from the US perspective and said the Middle East is a source of challenge?” Lightstone said. “This administration… has taken a different approach and said, look at the positive that can come out of here.”Lightstone paraphrased White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner as saying “people should stop looking at the Middle East as a source of problems; rather, they should look at it as a source of solutions.”“When you look at Israel on one end and the UAE on the other, it is difficult to find countries that did more to bring stability to their region… Looking to combine those powers together is truly exciting,” he stated.Lightstone has been instrumental in getting normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco off the ground, repeatedly jetting in recent months between Israel, where he is also senior adviser to US Ambassador David Friedman, and those countries.“I’ve been involved since the first phone call on August 13,” Lightstone recounted. “That moment in the room, in the Oval [Office] was infectious with enthusiasm and excitement… The question is: what do you do with momentum and excitement?”The Trump administration sought “to create facts on the ground that would yield excitement for that original Abraham Accords agreement, but also induce other countries to join the original circle,” he explained.The UAE and Israel already had common interests and a desire to work together, but the coronavirus pandemic made doing so much more difficult. Lightstone and others from the US worked to further facilitate those ties.“With the leadership of [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi] Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed, the president [Donald Trump], Kushner and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, the message was clear: Go big and go quick. Once you’ve committed to change a region for the better, it should not be isolated to one, two, three or four countries. You want something so big, so bold that people will want to grab onto it,” he said.Lightstone also played a major role in bringing about the new diplomatic relations between Israel and Sudan.The US, Israel, UAE and Bahrain have offered to aid Sudan as it transitions towards a democracy, he said.“Sudan will be a measure of the success of the Abraham Accords,” Lightstone said. “The advantage of Sudan is that it really is a blank state. The transitional government will merge into a full-time, hopefully democratic government, and will create opportunities for their citizens and a safer anchor to that part of the region that will make everyone more safe and more prosperous.”If Sudan’s economy stabilizes and prospers, it will have an “immeasurable” positive effect on its neighbors, Lightstone added.

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