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heard at aspen

Jordan’s U.S. ambassador: ‘Israel is losing all of the Arab countries’

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said Israel-Saudi normalization ‘on the cusp’ but only after war ends

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Jordanian Ambassador to the U.S. Dina Kawar at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. At right is former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides. The session's moderator, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, is at left.

ASPEN, Colo. — Jordanian Ambassador to the U.S. Dina Kawar warned on Wednesday that Israel is at risk of losing its relationships with Arab nations, including Jordan, with which Israel has had a peace deal for three decades.

“Israel is losing all of the Arab countries,” Kawar said during a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “At this point they have the treaty with Jordan, with Egypt — Saudi Arabia was supposed to be signed, but with UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and others. And right now, the Arab population and the Arab public opinion is so upset at seeing the images that we’re seeing in Gaza. So this is really also a loss for any future for the region.” 

Jordan, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has emerged as a staunch critic of Israel’s actions in Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and the most vocal advocate of the Palestinians’ cause among Arab nations. Jordan is not yet considering reneging on its 1994 treaty with Israel, but Kawar suggested that such a move is not off the table.

“People are very nervous about this treaty and about what’s going on, and as a government we’re responsible. We feel maintaining this treaty right now is the hope for better days,” said Kawar. “But how much we can keep going [down] that path is unknown.” 

Kawar spoke alongside Tom Nides, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel until July 2023. Nides, who was a champion of the Abraham Accords during his time in Jerusalem, said that Israel and Saudi Arabia are close to a normalization deal — but only after the war ends.

“My hope, my prayer, is that we help rebuild Gaza with the help of the Arab countries, with the with the countries including Jordan and Egypt and the Emiratis, and my hope is that — with Qatar and Kuwait — and possibly out of this, we’re going to get a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia,” Nides said. “The power of normalization, as Jordan knows, if we get a possible Saudi normalization, it could change the Middle East forever. And we’re on the cusp of that. We have to get the war done.”

Both Kawar and Nides called for an end to the war, but Nides added a caveat: Hamas must release the remaining hostages being held in Gaza.

“Let’s be clear. We need to get the hostages home,” said Nides, who is now a vice chairman at Blackstone. “The war needs to end, without question. The war cannot end until we get the hostages back, but we need to have a cease-fire. There is no question about that.”

Kawar and Nides also called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to articulate a plan for the reconstruction and governance of Gaza after the war ends. And both implored him to do more to address the issue of extremist settlers in the West Bank.

“We believe that it is very important for the Palestinian Authority to be given a chance,” said Kawar. “But unfortunately, not only does this government not want the Palestinian Authority to go back to Gaza, but they’ve also undermined everything that they’re doing in the West Bank. And so if they’re undermining the Palestinian Authority, then who do they exactly want to govern?”

Nides called settler violence against Palestinians “disgusting,” and urged action from Netanyahu’s coalition. 

“There are extremists in the Israeli government who have not denounced it as they should have, and stopped it when they should,” said Nides. “That’s something the United States and the Biden administration are attempting to try to make sure it ends as quickly as humanly possible.”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke earlier, hours after publishing an op-Ed in the New York Times calling on Congress to disinvite Netanyahu from speaking on Capitol Hill next month.

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