jared kushner
Washington CNN  — 

A number of top Trump administration officials, including Jared Kushner, will escort Israeli government officials to the United Arab Emirates on the first-ever commercial flight between the two countries, expanding on a commitment by the White House to broker normalized relations between the two Middle Eastern countries.

Kushner who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and serves as one of his top advisers, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, outgoing US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz will lead a delegation to the Middle East next week, according to a senior White House official.

The group will first stop in Israel for meetings, after which they will escort Israeli government aviation, space, health and banking experts for talks with their Emirati counterparts, the official said. They added that the historic flight between the two countries will travel from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi.

Earlier this month, the White House released a lengthy joint statement between the US, UAE and Israel, calling the agreement of a “full normalization of relations” between Israel and the UAE a “historic diplomatic breakthrough.” Israel vowed to ​temporarily “suspend​” plans to annex the West Bank as part of a new White House brokered plan.

The plan also included intentions to create commercial routes between Tel Aviv and the UAE’s two major airports in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and so, the flight itself has been expected.

Trip comes after agreement hit obstacles

The escorted journey comes as White House officials look to patch up the snags that have arisen since the deal was first announced. Both Israel and the UAE issued a flurry of contradictory statements about how the deal will impact Palestinians, who viewed the announcement as a sign of waning support among fellow Arabs.

UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said on Twitter that an agreement had been reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories, a threat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to fulfill this year. But later, in a televised address, Netanyahu confirmed that his annexation plans had only been “temporarily suspended,” adding that he was “still committed” to annexing parts of the West Bank. Omar Ghobash, a top Emirati government minister, later confirmed “we don’t have any guarantees as such” from Israel that it would not annex occupied Palestinian territory in the future.

A number of reports also suggested that the UAE would solidify its efforts to acquire new F-35 fighter jets as a concession. Netanyahu initially slammed reports of a possible stealth fighter jet deal as “completely fake news.” But then Kushner said Sunday in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the recent peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates “should increase the probability” of an F-35 jet sale to the UAE.

Israel and the UAE had grown increasingly tolerant of one another in recent years, and a deal between the two, while significant, was not completely unexpected. However, Kushner and his team operated quietly to finalize the details, so the actual announcement came as a surprise.

While many have hailed the announcement as historic, some critics viewed the normalization deal as an effort by the Trump White House to preserve flailing efforts at achieving some semblance of Middle East peace. It’s also symbolic of the departure of Kushner’s Middle East peace plan from one largely focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to a regional strategy to counter Iranian aggression.

Kushner and the other delegates are also expected to travel to Bahrain, and possibly Qatar and Morocco during their visit, the official said, although it remains unclear whether any of these countries are ready to follow the UAE and establish ties with Israel. The trip comes on the heels of a trip to the region this week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Two US officials and two Middle Eastern officials tell CNN that the White House is discussing normalization deals between Israel and Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and Sudan as well, although it remains unclear if they will be able to get those agreements signed by the November election.

A Saudi Arabia-Israel normalization agreement would be a big win for the Trump administration, but those officials tell CNN that any such agreement is unlikely so long as the Kingdom’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is alive. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen as more willing to venture into uncharted territories such as these, the officials added.