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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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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