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tv   Ambassadors of Israel UAE Bahrain Discuss Middle East Peace Policy  CSPAN  January 15, 2021 9:01am-10:00am EST

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your unifilered view of government. today we're brought by these companies who brought to you as a public service. the united arab emirates and bahrain, and israel, what the new diplomatic ties mean for the region. ♪♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome david rubenstein, president of the economic club of washington d.c. >> welcome, everyone, to our
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9th virtual signature event of our 35th season it's not completely virtual because for the first time since covid has hit we're actually having live guests here today because it's a special program and i want to thank our live guests for coming in and participating in the program because we've been doing everything virtual for almost nine months. they're here to talk about something special, the abraham accords, signed to the white house with the heads of each of the countries as well as president trump there as the official host. let me just introduce our guest and i'll take announcements afterwards and we will have an interesting conversation. so, first is the ambassador, his excellency abdullah el kalefa, the ambassador from bahrain, the kingdom of bahrain, ambassador here since 2017. and even youssef, his
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excellency, he's been ambassador here since 2008 and one of the longest serving ambassadors now i guess in washington d.c. and also, our ambassador from israel the ambassador from israel, ron dermer since 2013. welcome all of you, i'll have an interesting conversation with you. let me make preliminary announcements. title sponsor bank of america, the larry the president of greater washington d.c. thank you for doing that and pwc, terry clements senior partner of pwc and siemens usa, barbara, the ceo. thank you for that and thank you again, bank of america. our corporate partners are on the screen now and thank you to the corporate partners. two events i'd like to announce we have coming up. later this week we have the ceo of johnson & johnson, alex
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gorsky, to hear about covid vaccines and other things related to health care, i think you'll find it quite interesting, and on december the 9th, julie sweet, the chief executive officer of a acdcensure. >> what brought about this historic accord, the abraham accords. do your country say all of a sudden, this is a good idea or what led to this ambassador. >> thank you, david for having us. inwe've seen historically how important this step was for those who have actually taken the step. it's truly historic. we're seeing anwar sadat and king hussein and took bold leaders to take this step forward. and today we've seen our
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leaders as well, take this step. we had the foreign minister in town and signed the accords on behalf of the kingdom and i think there were a lot of events that led up to where we are today. definitely his majesty's vision of peaceful co-existence and the region led to where bahrain could take a decision like this at this very important time. >> so i should have said at the outset, i wanted to offer our condolences to our prime minister who passed away last week. >> thank you. >> and thank you for coming despite that situation. >> thank you very much. >> and so, ambassador, what led to this happening right now? >> well, we've been having a debate inside the uae when is the right time to do something like this, it could have happened earlier or two or three years from now. and the reason it happened now
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is the annexation debate. we came with the idea of trading up and basically preventing annexation, that negotiation with the white house happened very quickly, they enthusiastic white house got us over the finish line. and we saw on september 15th. it's been very, very widely received. >> ambassador, some people have asked why you did it before the presidential election, why not wait until after the presidential election because you could give a gift to the next president. why did you want to do something now? what was the reason for doing it now? >> so, it's not always about the united states, david. >> it isn't? >> it's not. this had nothing to do with the election, nothing to do with politics. the and annexation debate was
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the progress over the uae. i think over the past couple of years people saw israeli athletes participating in events and core games and the expo. and all of us were slowly getting to a place where we could become comfortable with normalization. all of these would be at risk in annexation proceeded. >> ambassador dermer. what was the reason your country wanted to do it now. >> to pick up on what yousef said. one is iran and our countries face a common danger. another factor i think was the rise of sunni radicalism. and you had al qaeda, sunni
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radicalism 1.0, isis, 2.0 and there was going to be a 3.0 and i think the governments here share a common interest in confronting that danger. i think there was a third factor as well. there's a perception, david, that the united states is withdrawing from the middle east or at least reducing its military footprint there and i think that's something that connected president obama with president trump and even with future biden because no one is talking about sending more troops to the middle east and i think that brings us towards a common position and a common strategy. and that's what created this strong alliance underneath the surface. what surfaced it were really the events of the last year. president trump put out a peace plan in january and it was a peace plan that israel could accept and the arab states did not reject. it was interesting that two of the three ambassadors who were in that room when president trump unveiled the peace plan are here with me today. they were this that room in january and a few months later as we were moving forward to
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exend it israeli sovereignty over territory that was consistent with the trump peace plan. that as yu yousef said, that got their country in a position, look, we wanted to do it for some time and they contacted the white house, look, if israel is willing to suspend the issue of sovereign it i, we're willing to normalize. took several weeks and we were able to create this. >> you mentioned annexation, has israel agreed not to annex the territories in dispute in the west bank? >> part of our agreement, you can see it in the statement made august 20-- august 13th of this past year, is that israel is going to suspend extending sovereignty to those territories. that's a word carefully chosen. youssef can sell--
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can tell you, it doesn't mean tomorrow, those positions so we've agreed to suspend it and that enabled this breakthrough first with the uae and fortunately the kingdom of bahrain followed immediately thereafter. now we've got a third country in sudan and very much hope we'll see more countries in the months and years ahead. >> okay, so in bahrain, has this met with popular support or has there been for this agreement? >> david, first of all, we've seen-- ever since the uae announced that speaker of the house came out with a positive statement and the chairman of the house came out with a positive statement. for people looking from abroad, the surprise came with the people that actually supported the move and not any opposition to it. and now, in any democratic society there will be those
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that are with decisions like that and those that are against it, but i think here there was overwhelming support. the country moved forward. the foreign minister actually left town immediately after, same day as the signing, to brief congress. and so, i think that people in bahrain are looking at this very positively. they're looking at the positive implications that will come out of the deal, the possibilities unlocking potential that was never there before, and we're moving forward with it. >> so, you've been in this town a long time. ambassador here since 2008. how do you keep this a secret so long? in other words, there are no secrets in washington. everything leaks. how did this not leak? tell us the secret of keeping this from leaking. >> kept it in a very tight circle only negotiated with two or three people in the white house. it ultimately grew to eight or nine and i'm sure israel is kept in a very tight circle and
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you just limit the number of people exposed to something like this and in our case, it worked. also, what really helped, it didn't take long, right, from the minute we started susing this to the minute the announcement went public i think we're talking five, six weeks in total. >> was all the negotiation virtual or-- ments no, no, i went in person to the white house many, many times in july and august. >> so, if you were to say there is one person at the white house, other than president trump who deserved the credit for this, who would you say? >> i would say most of the work was done with three people, jared kushner, berkowitz and general. all right. you said the word suspend was carefully negotiated. some people say it was carefully discussed about whether the f-35s that some countries would like, uae, for example, that israel agreed not to oppose that. is that-- how would you phrase israel's position on the f-35s. >> first of all, the f-35 issue
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was not part of the deal that was made with the emirates. you would have to ask yousef about his desire to have that vis-a-vis the united states. what we take very seriously in israel is the american commitment to maintain israel's qualitative military edge. that's one of the most sacrosanct. and before any would go to any other region. after the accords were signed in september, september 15th. sometimes the process could take a year, year and a half, but we put a team in washington and they were here throughout 30 days, 40 days, discussing our relevant security officials with their counterparts in the pentagon and able to reach understandings with them and then culminated with signing
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with the secretary of defense. we believe, the prime minister and the defense minister, who don't agree on a lot of things within israel, but agreed on that, that this prospective sale would not violate the u.s. commitment to maintaining israel's qualitative military edge and we feel very confident about that and we're grateful that we also have partners in the region to confront common dangers. >> i wouldn't underestimate the impact that the danger of iran has had on bringing our states closer together. because as i said, this has been happening for several years underneath the surface and we were able, because of the certain dynamic that yousef described to be able to surface it, but we face a real danger in iran. it is a country that vows to destroy the state of israel and that works every day to destroy the state iz israel and it's attacked my colleagues and
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attacked their countries. and we share that concern and i believe in the years ahead we will work together, i think, to confront that common danger and i think that's very good news for peace in the middle east. >> okay, ambassador, let me ask you, are there other members of the gcc you think are likely to sign up for the abraham accords in the near future? people speculated about let's say saudi arabia, there's been speculation about oman, and outside the gcc there's been speculation about moracco. anything you can say about the likelihood of any of those countries joining? >> here is the thing. i can't speak for other countries, but what i can say is that in the process leading up to bahrain's decision, we did consult with many so of our allies in the region and beyond the region. foreign minister was on a trip to europe immediately before coming here. we've spoken, obviously, to our neighbors as well and we've
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seen support throughout. and so, i think that at this stage the critical issue is whether or not it's going to be successful. well, we have a successful model here that other countries can emulate and i think we're on the right track. we have a -- we've accepted a trade delegation from israel and the united states last month. secretary mnuchin was present. mayor shubot from the israel side and it started out as a joint communique and ended up with a joint communique in seven. and we also have a historic visit from the foreign minister in two days to tel aviv, along with the minister of industry and commerce. so, working groups have been formulated and mou's have been signed and more good news is going to come out sometime very
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soon. >> i think to tack on that, i think we're the first wave, uae, bahrain, sudan, we're the first wave. to the extent any other country in the region is looking at this and debating whether it's good or not. >> it's up to us that this is successful and first to our people which is risky, unconventional, that it's the right decision and produces the right outcome. we must show success. >> when i was very young and my hair was very dark, there were some plans then that there would be a lot of commerce between those two countries and investments between the two countries, but it didn't materialize so far. what are you doing to make certain that there actually is real investment back and forth and real exchange in tourism?
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>> first, let's try to understand the differences. jordan and egypt when they made peace with israel they made it on the tail end of wars and conflict. i'm half egyptian, and i grew up in egypt, my wife, my mother, we're programed that this is our enemy. so it takes a while to regram yourselves and to change your mindset. i think the uae is looking at a very differently. if you take the geopolitical issues aside, making peace with israel on simply bilateral, investment platform makes total sense. we've seen mou signed on covid research, ai, technology, autonomous vehicles. there's going to be a joint film festival, i don't know if you knew that. so, on its own, engaging with israel for economic investment trade research reasons is totally, totally valid.
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>> now, if i want to fly from jerusalem or tel aviv to abu dhabi today, i can do that on a commercial plane? >> in fact, i was just texting with ceo of epitaph airlines today, and the fly dubai is starting next week. >> to do that, you have to fly over the kingdom of saudi arabia, so somebody must have called up somebody in saudi arabia and say do you have any problems with that and they say what? >> someone called somebody and the someone who answered said it's fine. >> okay, i won't ask you who that was, but i can guess. ron, the israeli kin necessary-- kinesett, is this something that everybody in israel agrees where or not such a good thing.
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>> well, you don't get unanimity in israel on anything, but as close as you can. >> i want to set gack to comparing this with 2020 to the peace when you were in the white house in 1979. when sadat made his peace with israeli that peace was rejected by every arab government in the region and the arab public throughout the middle east and sadat, if memory serves, egypt was thrown out of the arab league at that time and of course, he ultimately paid with his life for his courageous act in making peace with israel. now, fast forward 40 years when sheikh mohammed decided to make peace. some were silent about it and speaks volumes sometimes. what we see is the arab public to the extent we can measure in social media, you have very
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broad support for this decision. so we have the possibility here of doing something that we didn't do with egypt or jordan. we'd like to do it with both of them, which is to have a warm peace with them, not just from the top down, but from the bottom up. we don't see the forces in emirates or bahrain, political, economic and cultural forces mill tating against peace which you've had for decades. there were a lot of times if an egyptian businessman would go to tel aviv and come back to cairo, he wouldn't be welcomed with roses and same thing for a jordanian intellectual go to israel and come back to jordan. here in these two countries you see a positive sentiment not just from the top down which is critical, but from the bottom up and we think it could be a big shift, and my hope, david we'll look back on 2020 and see it's the end of the conflict. >> and since 1979, israel has boomed as venture capital place
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and technology quite successful, but mostly technology companies built in israel they often migrate to the united states. do you think that the israeli entrepreneurs will migrate to the uae and bahrain and other countries and they won't do that? >> that's an interesting question. i think we may be able to forge partnerships. you can think of what two better countries than the uae and bahrain to forge that partnership. we have great innovators and technology in israel, and they have great innovators there, and when you marry the two the sky is the limit. when you think of the air boycott of israel gone on for decades, it's sort of like oregon, nevada, utah, nevada, new mexico and half of southern california boycott silicon valley. it makes no sense, israel not just in the reason, but in global concerns in certain critical technologies, now when
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you have the partnerships to take advantage of it, it's a benefit to our people and the entire region. >> and people do not know that, you don't have a what it would be an israeli accent, you have an american accent. >> miami accent. >> born and raised in miami and then went-- >> you went to university of pennsylvania and went to israel and how did you become an ambassador. >> you only have a one hour program. >> how did that happen? >> i want today get involved in the country. i love the united states where i was born and raised and feel grateful for having been born and raised here, but there was another country that i wanted to help in its fight not just to survive, but its right to survive and i think what we've achieved in the last few months
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with this breakthrough, i think, strengthens israel's secure and will expand peace in the region and as i said hopefully we can look back at what happened in the last few months and i was very heartened, as i'm sure my colleagues were as well, that the president-elect, joe biden, one of the things that he agreed with president trump on was the abraham accords. he actually put out a statement saying he'd like to build on that and expand it. it's a very good thing in a time when two parties can't agree on anything, hopefully they can agree on this, which is peace and to expand it and deepen the peace you have egypt and jordan and transform the region. >> when you were coming up with a name, was it unanimous it was abraham accords and-- i understand why it was abraham was there anything else-- >> maybe yousef. none of us came up with a name.
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somebody at the white house came up with the name and honestly couldn't be more perfect fitting. we're building the abraham house, it has a church, a mosque, a synagogue where can worship together and calling this the abraham accords. >> and abraham is the father of ishmael and isaac and we are decess dents and the last time they get together was to bury abraham about 4,000 years ago so instead of coming together after a death. it's nice to come together for a birth. a birth of a new piece in the region. >> where did you grow up? >> i was born and raised in egypt. my mother is egyptian and i finished high school there and i came to school in georgetown and after georgetown, finally moved to abu dhabi and i
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started working in the government about 2000. i think the first time we met was probably around 16 years ago, we had that first meeting. we had lunch with sheikh mohammed and i think what i wanted to say is the middle east that you saw then is different from the middle east that we talked about today. and the perfect reflection of that and evidence of that, the three of us are doing an interview with you. that couldn't have happened 16 years ago when we first met. so the region is changing. >> ambassador al-khalifa, where did you grow up? and i know you go to school in the united states? >> correct, i did grow up in bahrain. i went up to school in bentley, in boston, six years mba, went back, civil servant all my life. my previous post was as a governor of one of the four governors back home so i worked very closely with the people
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and this was a shift, but a very good shift and serving the country is still an honor and a pleasure. >> so for those who haven't been to bahrain or are not that familiar with it, what is the population of bahrain? i know, david, you've been to bahrain, the population 1.5. we have-- speaking of covid quickly, we have one of the highest tests per capita because of the number of population. we have 1.8 test, 1.8 million tests that were done up-to-date, but bahrain is a developing country. it's moving really quickly, we've diversified away from oil a very long time ago so we were looking at different prospects as we grow our entrepreneurship and small to medium enterprises and we're looking at opportunities. this is a great opportunity and
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it will unlock potential business opportunities for entrepreneurs and especially in the tech industry. >> i've been to bahrain many times. why didn't bahrain get oil as much as let's say the other countries in the region? do you ever think you could look harder? there's no oil nearby or do you ever feel short changed or what have you done to build your economy without oil? >> back in 1932, bahrain was the first country to discover oil in the whole region. and ever since that time, it was just restricted to that field. now, last year we've uncovered off the shore oil which is in vast levels. and so, we're looking at u.s. companies to help us because it's unconventional oil we're
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looking at. the market rate we're looking at today doesn't make economic sense. but the amount of oil that was discovered in the off shore oil field is vast and we're looking for partners to assist in it. >> so, yousef there are two countries that people wonder what's going to happen with respects to them and not quite related to the abraham accords. one is qatar and with unis yemen. do you think it's going to change? >> we've been out of yemen a year and a half. yemen has a serious amounts of challenges ahead of it not just economic, but health care and humanitarian. i think the challenge with yemen is largely going to be domestic. i know we all want the yemen war to end. what's preventing the yemen war from ending are the yemeni factions unable to get to a
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solution or political solution. you have the houthi, you have a variety of players who can't come to an agreement on what the political formula should be. that's the challenge. we have been working with the u.n. envoy for many years, if you ask him today what his challenge for getting the yemenis on board. >> i don't think it's going to get resolved anytime soon. it's a small problem, it's not really addressed. it's not on anyone's priority list right now. i think we just have a very philosophical disagreement over what we wants our region to look like and we haven't sat down to figure out what the solution is. they want to go their way, we're going to go ours and i don't think that anyone pays attention to it. >> for those who have been to the uae, can you explain what dubai is and how it came together to be eau and how they control the foreign policy and other things? this is easy. uae is a combination of seven
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em rats and think of them as seven states. they created a union in 1971. abu dhabi is the largest in size and also where most of the oil is found. dubai is the financial and logistics and trade capitol and i describe it abu dhabi is the washington d.c., dubai is the new york city and five other emirates called the northern emirates and they basically come together and form one diverse, but very stable federation in the region. >> the total population is-- >> about 10 million people and uae citizens a little under 1.5 million. >> have you ever been to israel? >> i have not. i'm looking forward to going as soon as corona is under control and looking forward to the prime minister once again once corona is under control. >> ambassador, have you ever been to israel? >> not yet, but i think i'll be on the flight with yousef. >> and have you been to bahrain
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or uae. >> no, and as soon as they allow visitors again. i wants to pick up on something that was said. if you look at hoo supported the abraham accords and who opposed it, i think it tells you a lot about where the region is. the only states in the region that really opposed it was one, iran, that's obvious why, we're all their enemies, or they regard us as their enemies. the palestinian authority opposed it and the reason why they opposed it, they thought that they had veto power over israel's relationship with any arab states and the courage of the leaders of both uae and bahrain is about telling the palestinians, you don't have that veto power over progress in the region and i think that was a very, very important thing. another power was turkey. turkey, remarkably, opposed the agreement and they even
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threatened, and maybe yousef can speak to this and threatened to remove their turkish ambassador to the emirates over this an i -- accord. and david you may know this, they have an embassy in turkey, and we have an embassy in turkey and threatening the uae theys were going to recall the ambassador because of this agreement and another unfortunately qatar who used considerable power through the region through al-jazeera. and the only states are opposing it, iran, palestinian authority, turkey, qatar, tells you something. a divide in the region, it's not sunni and shia, it's the forces of modernity and medievalism. and those on the stage want to embrace modernity and progress. >> the population of israel is little over-- >> nine million. >> nine million people and the
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nine million people would you say a percentage of immigrants to the country and you were an immigrant to the country and what percentage were born there. >> about half. we had waves of emigration right after israel's establishment largely from the middle east and africa, jewish communities that existed for 2500 years, jews from iraq, communities from yemen and libya and moracco and other places and massive wave of immigrants from the former soviet unionion when the iron curtain fell and ethiopians. and i don't know how many were born in israel, but we're a society of immigrants. jews who come from maybe 100 countries around the world to return to their ancesteral homeland. >> do you have a view that there will be with the palestinians, three, four, five years, do you see anything happening to resolve the
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so-called palestinian issue? >> i think because of what happened there is a chance for progress. the old formula, let's make a deal with the palestinians and if we can achieve peace with the palestinians, israel will have peace with 21, 22 arab states and that would be great as long as we have a palestinian partner who would like to make peace with us. but i think to come into an alliance with israel and come into this new relationship makes it more likely you'll have moderate forces among the palestinians emerge that are willing to make a compromise with israel. they said the entire arab world will never make peace with israel now that they're making peace beyond egypt and jordan and now three other countries that moved towards peace with israel, i think it will strengthen the force within palestinian society and hopefully we'll get a palestinian leader who will want to be like sadat or houston or sheik mohamed or
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others who want to join in in remarkable movement for peace and the decision will be theirs. we cannot force nem to make peace with us. they have rejected the legitimacy for a nation state for the jewish people for a century. i hope they won't waste the next century. hope they'll follow. >> and the jewish community in the united states, and what has been their reaction to this? >> they're overjoyed. overjoyed. look, anytime that we had an arab leader who wanted to make peace with israel who spoke peace to their own people, there was overwhelming support within israel and certainly within the broader jewish world and that's the case now and maybe yousef can speak to it and i don't know how many salmon dinners he's been invited to. >> i've spoken to a lot of groups. >> both groups and individuals the common reaction i get, most people didn't think this was
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possible. most people didn't think this could happen before a palestinian state was formed and to the point, we tried this approach. the arab world came together and the collective position was we're not going to do anything until there's a palestinian state. makes sense, didn't work, simply didn't work. we have this intractable political problem that hasn't made any progress in the past 20, 30 years so we finally concluded let's try something else, let's try a different approach. it seems to have been incredibly well-received with everyone with the exception of what ron was talking about. but here when you talk about individual jewish-americans or evangelicals, they are in disbelief that this actually happened and they're very proud, very excited and i think this is just the beginning, i really do. >> now, we've mentioned a couple of times, sheikh mohammed, for those who don't know him, describe his background and how long he's been effectively in his position. >> make sure he doesn't see
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this part of the interview. he doesn't like his name coming up, low profile. he's the crowned prince, and first the head of the armed forces and military guy by background, spent 26 years in the military and he's the gentleman i've been working for for the last 20 years of my life. >> okay. and the ruler of bahrain now is-- >> his majesty, king hamad ascended the throne in 1999. first thing he took us from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. two houses, legislative branch, an appointed house, an elected house. the appointed house, which is interesting for us today, has always had people from different backgrounds within bahrain. and so, there was always representation from the indigenous jewish society from bahrain, and the appointed
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house. actually one of the members was later representing bahrain here in washington d.c. as an ambassador for a number of years, and so his majesty has been invested in safety and security for many years and building on the u.s. navy fleet. we've been in every u.s.-led military operation in the region. we've hosted the international maritime security construct, a number of countries. cts, et cetera, so we've been looking at peace within the region as a filler for economic stability, progress, and moving forward. >> your country is what percentage shiite and what percentage sunni? >> we never looked at it. we're looking at bahrain first. i mean, when we look at bahrain, everyone needs to move forward and then, you have a
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lot of people that have a sunni father and a shia mother. where would you classify them? and so, the bahrain first policy has been one policy that has taken us. >> forward. >> and we've moved as a community. it's a small community. we need to work with one another. we're not divided into different geographic locations and so, the country needs to work together in order to move forward. >> there's a jewish population in bahrain? >> absolutely. we've had a synagogue for over 80 years. that synagogue is to be visited by the indigenous jewish society in bahrain, but now, what's happening is, because we're going to expect visitors from israel, because we're going to expect visitors from throughout the world, hotels
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are starting to offer kosher meals. the synagogue is undergoing renovation, and we have started to look at people coming from abroad and making sure. >> and one of the predecessors, an ambassador who came in when i came in in 08, who was the ambassador-- >> the first female arab ambassador here in washington and she happened to be-- >> and you'll need a second synagogue, usually the synagogue they go to and a synagogue they never go to. >> and yousef, you said everything doesn't revolve around american presidents. and sometimes when the new president comes in, you have surprises or gifts. >> i don't have anything prepared, but i think a great gift would be a model of the abe i can family house and to me it describes what we are and what we believe.
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acceptance, tolerance, we have a ministry of tolerance and and ministry of tolerance. even without the abraham accords there's a growing jewish in. uae. and even without the abraham accords the pope visited us. and we've always opened up our owe site to everyone. today we have 200 nationalities in the uae, every religion you could possibly imagine, everyone practicing co-existing peacefully. those are the values we show to the world and we want to prove yes, you can have a tolerant, open modern society in the middle east. i think the abraham accord and the political elements of that is going to add to that awareness for the rest of the people. >> what do you think is the basic interest of iran in trying to deal with the middle east? in other words, what is their concern with, say, your country or saudi arabia? what are they most worried about or concerned about? >> this is my own personal theory. i think iran looks at our part
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of the world and thinks of the days of the persian empire and things that this is an area that belongs to them. we are countries that are either sub servant or other policy. i think that's the crux of the agreement. ng i don't think it's just sunni, shia. we have examples and countries and sunni and shia that co-exist. i think this is more about arab and persian identity and who feels that this belongs to them. so i think that's the main challenge. >> okay, so what do you think that iran's biggest concern with israel? >> well, they want to export that revolution that began in 1979 and they vowed, as i said before, to destroy israel and they're also trying through their proxy forces to undermine stability or to take over countries throughout the region, in iraq, syria, lebanon
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through hezbollah, and through the houthi, and iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world. they have to fanatic ideology that they seek to exportment they've been doing it until recently in the last two, three years where essentially sanctions have been put back on iran and the president withdrew from the nuclear deal which i think is very important for the region and made the region much safer, because it took a power that had a tailwind in iran and turned it into a headwind and it's much more difficult to export their ideology. i will tell you, david, what's important at least for me. why did we achieve this success? what was the recipe for success? and it's pretty clear to me, it was a policy where you confront iran, you embrace your eye allies in the region and you leave open a door to the palestinians and you don't put that front and center because a lot has been invested in that
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issue and as yousef says not a lot has been achieved. i think a new administration, confront iran, leave open a door to the palestinians, but don't leave it front and center i think could expand this peace to more and more countries and hopefully end the arab-israeli conflict and begin to see a change in the israeli-palestinian conflict. >> the great existential threat to israel is iran. >> one existential threat. >> no other existential threat? >> no, know the to the survival. israel is a powerful country, powerful militarily, powerful technologically, but iran is a country that is pursuing nuclear weapons and openly calls, they tweet about it, that they're going to destroy the state of israel. and so we have to do whatever we have to do to defend ourselves. i think that finding allies in the region who will stand against a common danger is part of that effort. so, most people are saying now the president-elect is joe
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biden and if he is openly sworn in as president and he says i want to put the iranian agreement back together again, your position would be that's not a good thing to do? >> i think it would be a mistake and hopefully he will look at the middle east as it is. he will see the benefits of this process, about how he can continue that process, and i think to not go back into the same deal. i think we all in the region, israel and arab states, opposed the nuclear deal. the prime minister opposed it publicly in congress in 2015, but i think he spoke for many others in the region. and i think that when you have israelis and arabs who are saying to you, this is not a good idea, do not follow that path, i think that that should be taken into consideration. look, you had-- when you were dealing with north korea, you had six-party talks with the north-- with north korea. two of those parties were japan and south korea. meaning your allies in the region were at the table.
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in the discussions over iran, when the nuclear deal was made, israel was not at the table and the arab states were not at the table so the first inning i would say to the incoming administration, sit with your allies in the reegsz region, we have the most skin in the game, the most to lose. sit with us to deal with the issue and the nuclear iran and with your eye allies in the region, and enhance the process and put the united states in a much better place to deal with iran. >> yousef, you've been ambassador here for a long time here and you're considered one of the most influential ambassadors in washington. what's the key to being an influential ambassador, is it going to cocktail parties, to the white house, what's the key? >> i haven't been to anything in about 10 months. that's not it.
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i think that it's being consistent, being honest, it's being direct with people, even when thank you don't like what you hear. sometimes we have honest disagreements, but they're honest. you don't hide your position. you are very direct about what your country stand for, what your policies are, what your analysis of other countries, of the host countries positions are, it's not always perfect. there's no country on the planet where we agree with on everything. there are going to be disagreements, but i think as long as those disagreements are handled with respect and with honesty, i think it just makes you-- it makes one effective at their job. >> the greatest pleasure of being an ambassador is what? >> being able to reflect the views, the positions, the values of an entire country. actually, if you think about it, it's very stressful. there's no margin for error, you can't make a mistake what your country believes or stand for, so, you have to be accurate, but, you know, being able to tell people, this is
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what my country believes or thinks, it's a big honor. >> what's the greatest downside to being an ambassador? >> you always have to be right. you can't afford to make it mistake. people look to you for guidance on all kinds of things. people come to you for advice on anything, how do you travel or how do you enter to what is your policy on iran or on the abraham accord or on yemen. you have to be able to answer a lot of different questions. so how have you found being an ambassador? is it as much fun as you thought or not quite as good as you thought it was going to be? >> let me first go back ron's discussion on iran and then answer the fun question. i think that countries around the world need to realize the effects of iran's policies on not only the region, but the entire world. when you have an attack on the global energy infrastructure, a
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guy in california filling up his gas tank is going to real highs that there's a difference that he's paying here. i think that it is important for u.s. government going forward, if we were to see an agreement with iran, to take into consideration all the challenges that we're facing in the region. and we're talking not just the ballistic missile program, but we're talking proxy activities, we're talking the spread of the ideology of this ammunition-- ambition that we've seen from iran for 40 years now. as allies of the united states, we stand ready to be at the table talking about what is important to us and assistening any way possible going forward. now, as a political appointee, this was new to me, so i had to speak to a lot of people here
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in washington. there was a very supportive role that i've seen from my friend and colleague ambassador, and this is an interesting time, especially in the past three years, we've seen a lot. >> i should have asked you, what's the greatest pleasure of being ambassador and the greatest downside to being an ambassador? >> well, it's a tremendous honor to be the represented of the one and only jewish state and i don't take it for granted for one minute. because we were a people, as you know, david, did not have sovereignty. and it's an event that can be seen not in the context of one generations or two generations, but as churchill said maybe a thousand years. so i'm very cognizant of the privilege and the most remarkable thing about being an israeli ambassador is that israeli has ambassadors, meaning that we have a voice or
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a state of refuge or a shield. that's something that the jewish people did not have 75 years ago when we faced the worst disaster of our history. i'm cognizant of the fact and cognizant of the powers throughout history who thought to annihilate our people don't have representatives in washington. you know, there's no ambassador of ancient babylon. there's no ambassador of imperial rome, there's no ambassador of the thousand year, but there's an ambassador of israel. it's an honor to represent my country, jews and arabs, jews, muslims and christians and speak to them as yousef said. i would say the most important thing any ambassador can have is that people who speak to them know they are speaking for their leadership and they are speaking to their leadership and i think this is what has made, frankly, yousef such an effective ambassador in washington. i think the same with abdullah
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and the same with me and they know i'm speaking for that leadership and with a small circle of people with the agreements that we have. if you have to go through layers and layers and layers of bureaucracy, it's very different. it's great serving the part of israel in washington wherever you go, you lose a little bit of privacy and hopefully get that back when i return to jerusalem. >> people in washington say now i understand the news, what's next? so what are you going to do next to build on the abraham accord? is there some second phase? . so the first phase or first thing we got to do after the announcement was a series of sort of bilateral mou's with the government of israel within flights, trade and protecting investments and visa-free travel and now travel to the two countries with no visas, which is a big deal. and it's put together or put in place an infrastructure for our
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countries to be able to trade, to travel, to invest, to do business with each other. that was done very quickly and i think it's almost done. flights are coming in. we set the ground for anybody who wants to do business. one of the things i see a lot or i hear from the uae is the business community is really excited. why? we've just opened a brand new market to them. they haven't been able to invest, trade or go through israel and vice versa. israelis are coming to the uae with really, really, a lot of excitement. i was talking to a young government official a few weeks ago. they were supposed to send me papers for something and said, sorry, sir, we're late and apologize, but we've been completely overwhelmed with requests. >> overwhelmed with what? >> the number of israeli companies calling to set up shop in abu dhabi has been incredible and we don't know how to respond. i think that phase two is seeing the fruits of what we put in place, people being able to access each other's markets
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and eventually students going back and forth and eventually research programs, actually produce something. we're talking about a space program. so, i think that there's a lot of excitement both ways from both directions about the things, outside of the policy ap political world, that we can do together. >> when you go to israel what is it that you want to see that you've never seen before? >> i have no idea what's there? i've never been so i don't know what i'm supposed to see. that's one of the reasons i'm so excited. this is a country that's been off limits to us for a long time, finally is no longer off limits and that's why i'm excited to go. >> okay. what do you want to see in abu dhabi or bahrain? >> welcome, it breath taking some of the pictures and now that i've been invited to see formula one there, i should look at that. i think it's very exciting. as yousef says the emirates is a financial commercial center in the region and beyond, and i think bahrain, we saw last year, on the palestinian issue that they hosted an economic
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conference because it was important for them to see how they could move this process forward. again. you have two forces for modernity in the region and when you marry what they bring to the table with what israel brings to the table, the sky is the limit. it won't just be the sky, we'll be going to space together i guess in the near future. >> the part i'm most excited about is the know the business opportunities or the political cooperation or military investment. what i'm excited about, as i told you i grew up in egypt, i grew up thinking that israel is the enemy and i drove by the israeli ambassador's house every day going to school thinking, oh, you know. so, my 10-year-old son is going to grow up thinking, it's totally normal to visit israel. it totally normal to invest in israel. it's totally normal to visit. he's going to grow up with a completely different mindset than the one i grew up with, and to me, that's probably the most meaningful part of the
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abraham accords. >> do you think that egypt is likely to follow suit? it hasn't invested as much in israel as expected. you think that or you don't know. >> i don't know. i hope so. the way that they've welcomed and embraced this process, i think bodes very well for the future. again, egypt is a very large country. it's got about 100 million people in it and it's right next door to israel. the peace was different as yousef mentioned because we fought wars with egypt. certainly a cold peace is better than a hot war. and we'd like the cold peace almost a warm peace. i think if we prove this peace is success and turn this into a good model that will impact the peace that israel will have with egypt and impact jordan. and people want to invest in success. if we prove to them this will be successful i think you'll have other parties join. tell us what it was like at the white house on september the
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15th. you get there, you know, your leaders are there, president trump is there, you know, were they serving news jewish delicatessen or serving nice middle east east delicacy, what was it for food and what was like before you with ent to the stage? . each delegation went in and had a brief with the president and we went outside on the lawn and waited for the leaders to come down and sign. it was really exciting. i don't know how you felt at the time, but at the time, it did not hit me that, you know, we were in the middle of creating history. i'm worried where you're going to sit and taking selfie with my phone like everybody else is. at the moment it's exciting. i'm not sure that it will hit me that we created history and changed the dynamics in the region in a way that we still don't understand how it's going to happen. i think it's going to take years and years for what we've
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done on september 15th to really factor into people's analysis. >> what was it like for you at that event? >> i think the same thing. it was surreal. it took a little bit of time for it to sink in and as we look at things and how they're progressing today, i think that the bahraini people are starting to ask questions about the israeli people and same, vice versa. so i think it's an educational process that we're going through right now. when it comes to trade, negotiation, we were talking to the israeli side and saying, look, bahrain has zero income tax, zero corporate tax, it has 100% foreign ownership so all of these elements are starting to get clearer to the israeli business community and i think --. we're going to leave the last few minutes of this discussion to deep our over 40 year
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