Trump presides over signing ceremony between Isreal and United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Trump said, addressing a crowd on the South Lawn from a lectern set up on the balcony above. “Thanks to the courage of the leaders present, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds can live together in peace and prosperity.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the ceremony, but the UAE and Bahrain chose to send their foreign ministers rather than heads of state or government. That, along with precautions against the spread of the coronavirus, denied Trump the chance to fully re-create the historic group handshakes that were the symbolic capstone of past White House peace ceremonies.

Nonetheless, the agreement is historic on its own. The last Arab state to make peace with Israel was Jordan, in 1994. Egypt was the first, in 1979. The agreement is also significant for relegating the Palestinians to the sidelines. Palestinian leaders have rejected the Trump peace efforts for three years and have called the two Arab nations traitors to their cause.

Neither UAE nor Bahrain is at war with Israel, so the document is not a peace treaty in the formal sense. But until now, both Persian Gulf states had officially considered Israel to be illegitimate.

Arab states in the Persian Gulf have edged closer to Israel over the past decade, largely in response to a shared desire to blunt Iranian influence in the region.

On Tuesday, Trump once again expressed a desire to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program after earlier in his administration ripping up an accord reached by Tehran with the Obama administration to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Trump and administration officials contend that agreement did not do enough to prevent Iran from building a weapon or to blunt its aggressive behavior in the region.

“I really believe Iran wants to make a deal,” Trump said during a meeting in the Oval Office with Netanyahu ahead of the signing ceremony. “I want Iran to be a great country.”

Trump separately welcomed the foreign ministers and Netanyahu in Oval Office meetings, two of which were opened to reporters. UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed told Trump the deal offers a chance for more cooperation in the region, and more between the United States and UAE.

Netanyahu, a frequent visitor to the White House, grinned as Trump presented him with a ceremonial gold key, which Trump called a “key to the White House.”

“You have the key to the heart of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu replied.

Trump predicted that five more countries could soon fallow suit and recognize Israel. He declined to name them.

A Trump administration official, briefing reporters Monday, declined to spell out what the documents being signed would say, adding that the texts would not be available until sometime after the White House ceremony.

The official spoke on the condition of

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Israel, Arab states set to sign Trump-brokered deals in White House ceremony

Israel will officially sign deals to normalize ties with the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday that were brokered by President Donald Trump in what is described as a diplomatic breakthrough.

The agreements — called the Abraham Accords — will be signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani during a ceremony at the White House.

“Instead of focusing on past conflicts, people are now focused on creating a vibrant future filled with endless possibilities,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who helped negotiate the agreements, said in a statement late Monday.

The UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth Arab states to normalize ties with Israel despite the country not having reached a resolution to the entrenched dispute with the Palestinians.

The last peace treaties with Israel were signed by Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The new agreements will see Israel suspend its claim of sovereignty over areas outlined in the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan.

While marking a diplomatic victory for Trump ahead of November’s presidential election, the agreements have outraged Palestinians, sparking protests across the region.

Clerics hold signs and the Palestinian flag during a protest against normalizing ties with Israel in front of the Palestinian embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday.Khalid al-Mousily / Reuters

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the move, saying on Twitter that it erodes unity between Arab states.

“This day will be added to the calendar of Palestinian pain and the record of Arab fractures,” he said.

Critics warn the new deals also risk undermining the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which was proposed by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League, which called for normalization of ties with Israel on the condition that Israeli forces were withdrawn from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

“Peace which does not include the realization of the rights of all Palestinians will be one without justice,” Shawan Jabarin, general director of the independent Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, said.

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, center left, elbow bumps with an Emirati official as he leaves Abu Dhabi, Arab Emirates, on Sept. 1.Nir Elias / AP

Still, the deal is a positive development for the region, setting the stage for increased trade, tourism and diplomacy, Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, told NBC News.

“This is a big moment, it’s an historic moment and we shouldn’t underestimate how important it is,” he said.

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The Gulf states could use the deal to push Israel toward more meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians, who had refused to take part in Trump’s Middle East peace initiative, Mekelberg added.

Israeli officials have previously said the country seeks to expand ties with other countries in

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Trump to Host Israel-United Arab Emirates Deal-Signing Ceremony on Sept 15 | World News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a Sept. 15 signing ceremony for a groundbreaking Middle East agreement normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a senior White House official said on Tuesday.

As part of the deal, announced at the White House on Aug. 13 following what officials said were 18 months of talks, the Gulf state agreed to normal relations with Israel, while Israel agreed to continue with plans to suspend its annexation of the West Bank.

The senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan would lead the two delegations to the ceremony.

“I am proud to embark next week to Washington, at the invitation of President Trump, to take part in the this historic ceremony at the White House for the foundation of the peace treaty between Israel and the United (Arab) Emirates,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

Trump and other administration officials have said they expect Saudi Arabia and other countries to follow suit in recognizing Israel.

Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top administration officials accompanied an Israeli delegation last week on the first flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates to celebrate the agreement.

Iran has dismissed the agreement, which also served to firm up opposition to Tehran, a regional power seen by the UAE, Israel and the United States as the main threat in the Middle East.

The deal falls short of any grand Middle East peace plan to resolve decades of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians despite Trump’s pledge to do so.

The White House hope is that more such deals between Israel and the Gulf states will emerge, prompting the Palestinians to join negotiations.

Trump proposed a peace plan in January that heavily favored the Israelis, but it has not advanced in any significant way.

The Palestinian leadership initially called the accord “betrayal” and a “stab in the back of the Palestinian cause,” but has curbed its criticism, according to a draft resolution ahead of an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday.

The draft, seen by Reuters, does not include a call to condemn, or act against, the Emirates over the U.S.-brokered deal.

The United Arab Emirates is planning to make its first official visit to Israel on Sept. 22, a source familiar with the provisional itinerary said on Monday.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Franklin Paul and Howard Goller)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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