September 23, 2020
Israel signs deal establishing formal ties with two Arab states at the White House
WASHINGTON - President Trump presided over a White House signing ceremony Tuesday of agreements establishing formal ties between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, saying the accords would “change the course of history.”

With trumpet flourishes and speeches under the flags of all four nations, Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers addressed an invited crowd seated in seasonably cool sunshine on the South Lawn.

The agreements mark the third and fourth Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel, and the first since Jordan took the step in 1994, following Egypt in 1979. Trump took full credit for setting the path and encouraging them to take it. A White House statement attributed the success to his “foreign policy vision and his acumen as a dealmaker.”

But the countries involved, Trump said Tuesday, “had to make that choice themselves.”

In formal remarks each leader delivered in turn from a podium set on the White House balcony looking down on the audience, both Trump and Netanyahu said that other Arab countries were prepared to take the same step.

The last-minute addition of Bahrain, whose announcement that it would normalize ties with Israel followed that of the UAE with far less fanfare, was seen as a sign of Saudi approval. The small island monarchy in the Persian Gulf is highly dependent on economic and security ties with the Saudis and closely coordinates its foreign policy with Riyadh.

The United States, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain all signed the Abraham Accords, named for the three Abrahamic religions rooted in what is now Israel and surrounding lands, that lays the ground for diplomatic, economic and other ties between Israel and the Persian Gulf neighbors. The two Arab states then signed bilateral agreements with Israel.

In addition to their historic nature, the agreements are also significant for relegating the Palestinians to the sidelines. Palestinian leaders have rejected the Trump peace efforts for three years, charging that they benefited Israel, and have called the two Arab nations traitors to their cause.

Neither the UAE nor Bahrain is or ever has been at war with Israel, so the documents are not peace treaties 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, some with extensive but largely unpublicized ties, in response to a shared desire to blunt Iranian influence in the region.

Trump greeted all three leaders in the Oval Office separately before the signing ceremony. As he sat there with Netanyahu, he 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.

The ceremony received wide and favorable attention in largely government-influenced news coverage throughout most of the Persian Gulf. One partial exception was in Qatar, whose Al Jazeera online quoted a Palestinian Authority official calling the signing a “sad day.”

The agreements have garnered widespread bipartisan support, but lawmakers have expressed some concerns. In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) cited questions “regarding the commitment that the UAE has received from the Trump administration to purchase American-made F-35 aircraft.”

“It is also critically important that we fully understand the agreements’ details regarding the announced freeze of efforts by Israel to annex portions of the West Bank,” she said. (Source: The Washington Post)
Story Date: September 16, 2020
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