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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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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