Wednesday, September 16, 2020



Office of the Press Secretary
Via Teleconference
6:29 P.M. EDT
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much.  Hi.  Good evening, everyone.  Thank you for joining us.  I have with us today a senior administration official who will give a brief preview of tomorrow’s historic signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords here at the White House. 
     This call will be on background and embargoed until the end of the call.  And with that, I will turn it over to our senior administration official. 
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, everybody.  This is [senior administration official], but I guess it’s on background.  I don’t know why we can’t say who I am, but okay.  Here we are. 
     Hi.  So I guess I’ll just get a little bit into the details of what we’re thinking about and just, sort of, perhaps take a step back.  So all of the documents -- I got a lot of questions over the last few days, and so I’ll try to maybe address some of them.  All of the documents are roughly complete or complete.  Obviously this is, sort of, a long negotiation process led by Jared Kushner on our side.  And on our side, it was Jared, myself, David Friedman, as well as a lot of lawyers to really get the documents into the right, sort of, place, and we feel like they are there. 
     So the Emiratis and the Israelis will be signing their own document, as will as the Bahrainis and the Israelis will be signing their own document.  And then there’s also going to be, sort of, something that everybody is signing.  I don’t intend to put out the text of the document until after the completion of the event tomorrow sometime.  I don’t exactly know when, but that’s just something I’ve gotten lot of questions about.  So that’s, sort of, that.
     Tomorrow there will be bilateral meetings between the three countries that are visiting and the U.S., followed by the event itself, and then a lunch between the entire, sort of, group from the White House. 
     I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that I can, sort of, get into.  I apologize there’s not that much details yet, but I am ready to divulge outside that, sort of, basic framework.  But hopefully that’s helpful.  But I’m also happy to take questions if we can negotiate. 
     Q    Hi.  Thanks for doing this.  A couple questions.  One is Bahrain.  Can you give us any sense of the conversations that you may have had with Saudi Arabia about the nature of Bahrain’s willingness to come tomorrow and what that says about where the Kingdom is? 
     And two, UAE -- I think you’ve probably been asked this -- but MBZ obviously not coming.  Do you have any concerns about the fact that he is not coming and what that says about where the UAE is right now?  Thanks. 
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, first off, thank you.  And you actually reminded me of a point that I had wanted to make.  So maybe I’ll just make that point quickly first and then I’ll get back to yours.  I apologize. 
     The documents -- I think you might find tomorrow that the UAE document is going to be a much, sort of, longer document than the Bahrain document.  And honestly, that’s sort of a function of the time.  So the UAE, we were able to finish that deal on August 13th.  And then, obviously, it’s now September 15th, as opposed to the Bahraini agreement, which, you know, was obviously a much quicker negotiation. 
     So it’s still an extremely substantive document that we’ll get through what our intentions are, but it will be a much shorter document.  And that’s honestly just a function of the time and not the willingness of the party.  So that’s something I think the people are going to notice, so I put that out first.
     As it relates to Saudi, you know, I think it’s sort of well understood that Bahrain has a very close relationship with them, but beyond that, I don’t want to get into, sort of, specific conversations that we had with the Saudis, although obviously we did travel there immediately after being in Bahrain.  I believe it was on Tuesday or Wednesday of the week we were in the region.  So I’ll let, you know, that sort of stand for itself. 
     And then as it relates to the UAE -- I mean, so they are a really, really impressive people, and their leadership is extraordinarily close-knit.  You know, so the Crown Prince’s brother and foreign minister of the country is going to be in attendance.  And honestly, from the get-go, that was who they actually suggested.  And it’s their delegation, so it’s their right to choose who they’d like, and it’s our honor to host the foreign minister.  So we’re excited to have him.  And Bahrain is sending the same -- the same level of delegation. 
     Q    Hi, everyone.  So we were interrupted a little bit when the operator was asking us our names, and so I don’t think you got into some of the specifics on what is in the document.  Or you just said that the UAE has a more substantive document based on just timing.  Can you just give us a little more detail as far as, you know, the airline agreements -- you know, in terms of flights to the capitals and to Dubai; maybe access to the Temple Mount?  Any of that stuff that’s in the agreement? 
     And then, a totally separate issue: Can you tell me if lawmakers -- Democrat lawmakers were invited to tomorrow’s ceremony as well, and whether they’re going to be in attendance?  Thanks. 
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so on your last question: First, senior Democrats -- a large amount of whom were invited -- we expect some to attend, although we’ve heard from back from some that they’ve been unable to.  I don’t know that everybody is in town, so that’s probably a component as well.  But I’m honestly not tracking that as closely as perhaps other people are.  But I definitely do know that we invited them, and I expect a nice amount, hopefully, to attend.  But, you know, it sort of is what it is.      
     And then -- oh, on this -- the document itself: So, like issues of the Temple Mount are not things that would make it into a document like this.  But as relates to specifics, you know, we do get into some, as it relates to substantive issues of bilat -- of the bilateral nature, specifically in the UAE document.  The Bahraini document is a little bit less, but it's more high level of what ultimately is going to happen.  So you'll see it’s in full, full details later, but hopefully that gives you a bit of a frame.
     Q    Hi.  Thank you very much for doing this.  Greatly appreciate it, but I have a few questions.  My first one is: You mentioned there was going to be a document signed by all three parties.  Do you mind going into detail about that?  And also, how many pages are going to be in each document? 
     And then, finally, there are reports that Serbia will not move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if Israel recognizes Kosovo’s independence in 2008 from Serbia.  So I'm wondering if you can comment on that as well.  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  All right, so the second question got a little bit cut off.  I don’t know if that was just for me. 
     I’m very confident that what was agreed to between Serbia and Kosovo will come to fruition.  So time will, I think, bear that out.  But I don't -- I don't see any reason to worry on that.
     As it relates to the documents, I guess I'll perhaps go a little further than initially, because you guys have worn me down.  It's -- there's going to be, sort of, the Abraham Accord that is going to be signed.  And then there will be -- then the bilateral with the U.S. as witness or observer being signed.
     So there's something that everyone will be signing, and that would -- I would think of as the Abraham Accords.  And then the actual bilateral agreements, without getting too far into what’s -- what those actually are going to say.  So, yeah. 
     Q    Hey.  Thanks for doing this call.  As far as the optics go, should we expect the representatives from the UAE and Bahrain to shake hands with Prime Minister Netanyahu? 
     And can you let us know more -- I know someone asked about Saudi earlier -- but just about, you know, next steps.  You know, what other countries are you hoping will, you know, sign on to the Abraham Accords and forge similar agreements with the State of Israel?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, the first question, as it relates to how people will interact with each other: You know, everything that we've seen up until this point suggests that both sides -- or all three sides are extremely excited about tomorrow.  And so I would imagine that there would be that sort of sense of warmth, obviously with the corona, sort of, being -- you know, in the background of everybody's minds.  So understanding that -- although everybody will have been tested.  So anybody who's up there will -- you know, if they are to engage in any sort of physical contact, it would be understood in that context.
     But I expect everybody to be extremely excited.  Everyone that I've spoken to on all three sides, outside of, you know -- in addition to the U.S. -- have all been extraordinarily excited.  You know, really looking forward to tomorrow, and honestly appreciate the gravity of what's happening and can appreciate the moment.
     As it relates to other countries: You know, I can tell you that Jared, myself, and others have spent a lot of time working on that.  But perhaps for the time being, I'd love to just see it sort of focused on the historic event that we have tomorrow with the signing between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.  
     But we are feeling good about some other conversations as well. 
     Q    Hi.  It's Anne Gearan with the Post.  Can you describe the coronavirus protocol for tomorrow?  We understand that given the surge in cases in Israel, there's considerable concern on the part of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation about being in a venue with a lot of people not wearing masks and not social distancing.  Will there be social distancing?  And will people be wearing masks tomorrow?  Will you require it or recommend it?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think the e-mail that went out for all invitees was an encouragement to wear a mask.  We're not going to require anybody to do so.  But, you know, the Israelis and the Emiratis and Bahrainis are all taking it seriously.  I think when they got off the plane, they were wearing masks.  But, ultimately, it's not going to be required and it will be on the South Lawn, which is obviously a pretty vast space. 
     We're expecting, though, a few hundred people, but it is our intention to keep it as distanced as possible, understanding
the constraints and the time -- of the time.
     So, yeah, we encourage -- we're going to encourage people to wear masks, but ultimately it’s their choice. 
     Q    Will the U.S. -- (audio is cut off.)
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:   I’m sorry.  I couldn’t tell if somebody asked a question or there was something.
     Q    Hi, thanks for doing this.  Just to clarify, is tomorrow going to be the signing of a formal agreement with Bahrain or is there a future event with Bahrain? 
     And secondly, will annexation be addressed?  There are rumors that Israel has to agree to four years of no annexation to get this deal. 
     And finally, will any Arab countries be participating besides Bahrain and UAE tomorrow?  Just showing up certain representatives.  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, Bahrain will be signing a document, as will the UAE.  And I really should’ve written down this question.  It's been a long couple of days.  Other countries in attendance as, sort of, an observer capacity, I don’t want to get into yet, but I think time will tell.  And I apologize, I don’t remember the last -- the other questions. 
     Oh, annexation.  Sorry, thank you.  Yeah, I mean, the joint statement was as clear as, sort of, we intend to get into it.  And I don’t expect it to come up tomorrow in that Israel has agreed to suspend it as we are working through the opportunities that are at hand -- specifically normalization or establishment of diplomatic relations, both with UAE and Bahrain, but also with additional countries that we're talking with.  And this four-year number -- I've heard a bunch of different numbers being thrown out, and I don’t know where it's coming from so.
      Q    Hi, thank you for doing this.  Two questions.  First question is: The Abraham Accord -- the document that all parties will sign -- is it going to contain any language on Italy's peace process, on the Trump vision, or on two-state solution? 
     And second question: Do you have any updates on where the issue of the F-35 deal stands, mainly about Israeli reservations about the deal?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So I don’t really have much to add, honestly.  On the Abraham Accord, you'll see it when it comes out. 
     And then on the F-35, I think Jared has been pretty forthright that it's something that's under consideration, and obviously Israel’s security will be not put in any way at risk.  And I sort of think of it as, sort of, a logical equation where if it were to go forward, it meant that Israel’s security was not put in harm, and therefore it's fine.  And if Israel’s security could (inaudible) further be put in harm, it wouldn’t go forward.  Either way, it doesn’t so much matter because it would only be done if Israel’s security wasn’t put at risk. 
     So I know there's a lot of interest about that, but I'm sometimes confused as to why.
     Anyways, I guess, with that, I'm going to get back to it.  Thank you so much to everybody for jumping on this call.  And I look forward to seeing at least some of you tomorrow. 
     Thank you. 
                              END                 6:49 P.M. EDT

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