UAE and Bahrain sign diplomatic deals with Israel at White House

Washington

Israel on Tuesday signed historic diplomatic pacts with two Gulf Arab states at a White House ceremony that President Donald Trump declared will mark the “dawn of a new Middle East,” casting himself as an international peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign.

The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel’s already thawing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in line with their common opposition to Iran. But the agreements do not address the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state.

Hundreds of people massed on the sun-washed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements in a festive atmosphere little marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees did not practice social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks.

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Mr. Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the day “is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace.”

Neither Mr. Netanyahu nor Mr. Trump mentioned the Palestinians in their remarks, but both the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers spoke of the importance of creating a Palestinian state.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, even thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “halting the annexation” of West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians in exchange for Emirati recognition. Mr. Netanyahu, however, has insisted that Israel has only suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements.

“Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East – a change that will send hope around the world,” Mr. Al Nahyan said.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani said Bahrain would stand with the Palestinians. “Today is a truly historic occasion,” he said. “A moment for hope and opportunity.”

But in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israel, apparently meant to coincide with the ceremony. The Israeli military said the rockets were fired from Gaza and one was intercepted by air defenses. Earlier in the day, Palestinian activists held small demonstrations in the West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu, and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel and the United States hope the agreements can usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit. That could have implications for Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Until now, Israel has had peace deals only with Egypt and Jordan.

Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan, and Morocco.

“We are very down the road with about five different countries,” Mr. Trump told reporters before the ceremony.

Many longtime Mideast analysts and former officials, among

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In break with past, UAE and Bahrain forge ties with Israel at White House

By Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements on Tuesday to establish formal ties with Israel, becoming the first Arab states in a quarter century to break a longstanding taboo, in a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump hosted the White House ceremony, capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians.

In front of a crowd of several hundred people on the White House lawn, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed accords with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.

The deals, denounced by the Palestinians, make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps toward normalizing relations since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Meeting Netanyahu earlier in the Oval Office, Trump said, “We’ll have at least five or six countries coming along very quickly” to forge their own accords with Israel.

Later Trump told reporters a third Gulf Arab state, Saudi Arabia, would strike an agreement with Israel “at the right time.” The Saudi cabinet stressed in a statement the need for a “just and comprehensive solution” to the Palestinian issue.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest Gulf Arab power. Its king is custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and rules the world’s largest oil exporter. Despite its own reluctance, the kingdom’s quiet acquiescence to the agreements was seen as crucial.

‘CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY’

The ceremony provided Trump with valuable imagery as he tries to hold on to power in a Nov. 3 presidential election. Flags of the United States, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain were in abundance.

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said from the White House balcony.

Trump called the deals “a major stride in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity” and declared that the three Middle East countries “are going to work together, they are friends.”

The back-to-back agreements mark an improbable diplomatic victory for Trump. He has spent his presidency forecasting deals on such intractable problems as North Korea’s nuclear program only to find achievements elusive.

Bringing Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together reflects their shared concern about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran criticized both deals.

All three of the Middle East leaders hailed the agreements and Trump’s role in glowing terms, with Netanyahu saying it gave hope to “all the people of Abraham.”

But the UAE and Bahraini officials both sought to reassure the Palestinians that their countries were not abandoning them or their quest for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite the Palestinian leadership having decried the deals as a betrayal of their cause.

In a sign that regional strife is sure to continue while the Israeli-Palestinian

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Trump Hosts Israel, U.A.E. and Bahrain at White House Signing Ceremony

WASHINGTON — Proclaiming that “there’s going to be peace in the Middle East,” President Trump hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the foreign ministers of United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House on Tuesday for the formal signing of new diplomatic accords between them.

The ceremony took place on the White House’s South Lawn marking an agreement that has become a focal point of the president’s foreign policy message in the closing weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Although the details remain unknown, the agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, will normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and U.A.E. and Bahrain, including the establishment of the first embassies in one another’s countries. Israel and the U.A.E. recently announced the start of the first commercial flights between them. Until now, Israel had normal relations with only two other Arab states, Jordan and Egypt.

The staging of the event seemed designed to invoke the scene 25 years ago in the same location, when President Bill Clinton brokered an agreement — and iconic handshake — between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

But many analysts of the region, while affording Mr. Trump credit for helping to broker the agreement — work spearheaded by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner — called the talk of peace overblown. They note that Israel has long been moving into a de facto alliance with the Persian Gulf’s Sunni Arab states, largely in common cause against Shiite Iran.

“It’s not conflict resolution and it’s not peace — this is a business deal,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group sharply critical of Mr. Netanyahu. “It’s very, very clear that there are aligned interests between Israel and these countries — military, security, diplomatic, economic — and those interests have been there for two decades.”

“This formalizes that, but it shouldn’t be overplayed as resolving a core conflict for Israel with its neighbors,” he added. Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, he said, “remains unaddressed with this agreement.”

Meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump presented Mr. Netanyahu with a large golden key embedded in a wooden box that he described as “a key to the White House, a key to our country.”

“You have the key to the hearts of the people of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu replied.

“This is peace in the Middle East without blood all over the sand,” Mr. Trump added.

Speaking on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump boasted that Tuesday’s event was just the beginning of grander things to come.

“We have many others going to be coming in over a short period of time,” Mr. Trump said. “And the Palestinians will ultimately come in too. You’re going to have peace in the Middle East.”

But during Tuesday’s ceremony the Palestinians seemed an afterthought, going unmentioned in the official remarks of Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.

Palestinian leaders, however, show no sign

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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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At Historic White House Event, UAE and Bahrain to Move Toward Normal Ties With Israel | World News

By Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday will become the latest Arab states to break a longstanding taboo when they sign agreements toward normalizing relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump will host the White House ceremony at noon EDT (1600 GMT), capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.

At the U.S.-brokered ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sign agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.

The deals make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalize ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The back-to-back agreements, which have drawn bitter condemnation from the Palestinians, mark an improbable diplomatic victory for Trump. He has spent his presidency forecasting deals on such intractable problems as North Korea’s nuclear program only to find actual achievements elusive.

Trump is up for re-election on Nov. 3 and the accords could help him shore up support among pro-Israel Christian evangelical voters, an important part of his political base.

Bringing Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together reflects their shared concern about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has been critical of both deals.

“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 said in a statement late on Monday. Kushner helped negotiate the agreements and is trying to persuade more Gulf countries to strike similar accords with Israel.

One target of White House appeals is Oman, whose leader spoke with Trump last week.

Another is Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power. So far the Saudis, whose king is custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and rules the world’s largest oil exporter, have signaled they are not ready.

Although a diplomatic win for Netanyahu, the signing ceremony takes place while he faces criticism at home of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a corruption trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust that has led to frequent street protests.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and describes his trial as a leftist political witch-hunt aimed at unseating a popular right-wing leader.

Netanyahu signaled on Monday that Israel’s deals with the two Gulf Arab states may still be works in progress.

A senior Trump administration official said that the documents were complete or nearly finished, that Israel would sign separate agreements with each of the Gulf states and that then the United States would join all three in signing a common document known as the Abraham Accords. But the official declined to provide specifics.

In a nod to the coronavirus that has hit the United States and the world, the White

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White House invites Democrats to signing ceremony with UAE, Israel, Bahrain

The White House has invited senior Democratic lawmakers to a ceremony where representatives from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will sign an agreement with Israel to normalize relations on Tuesday. 

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that a large number of Democrats were invited to the signing ceremony scheduled to take place on the White House South Lawn on Tuesday. The official said that at least some Democrats were expected to attend the ceremony, but did not offer any names. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCrowd aims ‘lock him up’ chant at Obama during Trump rally Nevada governor: Trump ‘taking reckless and selfish actions’ in holding rally Michigan lieutenant governor blasts Trump coronavirus response: He ‘is a liar who has killed people’ MORE helped broker a historic agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalize relations in August. Last week, Trump announced that Bahrain had also reached a deal with Israel to normalize relations. 

The parties will sign the agreement, dubbed the “Abraham Accords,” at the White House ceremony Tuesday, marking a notable diplomatic achievement for Trump. The agreement between the UAE and Israel received bipartisan acclaim when it was announced by the White House last month. 

The presence of Democrats at the ceremony will be a rare sight. The White House has previously declined to invite Democrats when the president has signed major legislation, like the president’s March signing of $2 trillion in coronavirus relief funding. Partisan tensions remain high in Washington as Republicans and Democrats spar over future coronavirus relief and the upcoming election.

The senior administration official said Monday that a few hundred individuals were expected to attend the outdoor ceremony on Tuesday, and that masks were recommended but not required amid the coronavirus pandemic. Members of the foreign delegations will be tested for COVID-19 prior to the ceremony. 

The senior administration official said all three parties will sign one document, the “Abraham Accords,” and that the parties would sign bilateral agreements with one another to cement the agreements. The official did not go into substantive detail about the content of the documents. 

The deal between the UAE and Israel represented a significant breakthrough in diplomatic relations between the two nations as the Trump administration works to facilitate cooperation between Arab nations and Israel. In a surprise announcement from the Oval Office on Friday, Trump announced that Bahrain and Israel would also normalize relations. 

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