UAE and Bahrain sign peace deals recognising Israel in historic moment
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have signed historic diplomatic normalisation deals with Israel at a ceremony at the White House.
The agreements represent the first time in a quarter of a century that any Arab country has given diplomatic recognition to the Jewish State.
Egypt and Jordan signed deals with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively.
President Donald Trump presided over the event, hailing it the ‘dawn of a new Middle East’.
The agreements won’t end active wars and do not address the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the UAE, Bahrain and other Arab countries support the Palestinians, the Trump administration has persuaded the two countries not to let that conflict keep them from having normal relations with Israel.
Supporters believe the agreement could pave the way for a broader Arab-Israeli rapprochement.
The treaties should see the opening of embassies in the respective countries, as well as flights, tourism and trade links.
Trump hopes it will lead to a new order in the Middle East and cast him as a peacemaker at the height of his re-election campaign.
Hundreds of people gathered to witness the signing of the agreements between Israel and the two gulf nations.
‘We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,’ Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. ‘After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.’
Until now, foreign policy has not had a major role in the election campaign, which has been dominated by coronavirus, racial issues and the economy.
Sceptics, including many Middle East analysts and former officials, have expressed doubts about the impact of the peace treaties and lamented that they ignore the Palestinians, who have rejected them as a stab in the back by fellow Arabs.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel has only suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements.
However, there is consensus even among critics that the agreements could usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit.
Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognising Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.
‘We are very down the road with about five different countries’, Trump told reporters before the ceremony.
In addition to the bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, all three are signing a document dubbed the ‘Abraham Accords’.
Palestinian activists held small demonstrations on Tuesday in the West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.
Even in Israel, where the accords have received widespread praise, there is concern they might result in US sales of arms to the UAE and Bahrain, potentially upsetting the country’s military edge in the region.
Trump told ‘Fox & Friends’ that the two gulf nations ‘would like to buy some fighter jets and I personally would have no problem with it’.
Even in the UEA and Bahrain, which have a history of suppressing dissent and critical public opinion, there are indications that the agreements are not nearly as popular or well-received as in Israel.
Neither country sent its head of state or government to sign the deals, while Bahrain’s largest Shiite-dominated opposition group, Al-Wefaq, criticised the move.
The ceremony follows months of intricate diplomacy headed by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the president’s envoy for international negotiations.
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