Trump presides the signing of historic pacts between Israel and two Arab states

Announcing “the dawn of a new Middle East,” President Donald Trump on Tuesday presided over the signing of  historic diplomatic pacts between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations that he hopes will lead to a new order in the Mideast and cast him as a peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign, AP reported.

Hundreds of people massed on the sun-washed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of the Jewish state’s already thawing relations with the two Arab nations in line with their common opposition to Iran and its aggression in the region.

“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.”

The agreements 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.

Trump’s political backers are looking for the agreements to boost his standing as a statesman with just seven weeks to go before Election Day. Until now, foreign policy has not had a major role in a campaign dominated by the coronavirus, racial issues and the economy. The pandemic was in the backdrop of the White House ceremony, where there was no social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks.

The agreements won’t end active wars, but supporters believe they could pave the way for a broader Arab-Israeli rapprochement after decades of enmity and only two previous peace deals.

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, Avi Berkowitz. On 13 August the Israel-UAE deal was announced. That was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, and then the announcement of the Bahrain-Israel agreement on 11 September.

During the ceremony, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, thanked Israel for “halting the annexation of Palestinian territories,” although Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel has only temporarily suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements.

Even the harshest critics have allowed that the agreements could usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit, with implications for Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.

In addition to the bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, all three are signing a document dubbed the “Abraham Accords” after the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions.

The Palestinians have not embraced the US vision. A poll released Tuesday found that 86% of Palestinians believe the normalization agreement with the UAE serves only Israel’s interests and not their own. Even in Israel, where the accords have received widespread acclaim, there is concern they might result in US sales of sophisticated weaponry to the UAE and Bahrain, thus potentially upsetting Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

Trump said he is OK with selling military aircraft to the UAE. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also welcomed the agreements but said she wants to learn details, specifically what the Trump administration has told the UAE about buying American-made F-35 aircraft and about Israel agreeing to freeze efforts to annex portions of the West Bank.

 

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