Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have signed agreements to establish formal relations, ending a decades-old taboo in Arab diplomacy as power and priorities shift in the Middle East.
“Today’s signing sets history on a new course,” Donald Trump told a crowd outside the White House where the deal was signed. “This is an incredible day for the world,” he said.
Long shunned because of its occupation of the Palestinian territories, Israel has always been considered a regional pariah. Yet as mostly autocratic Arab governments grow apathetic towards the Palestinian cause, and with Israel and the Gulf states sharing a common enemy in Iran, some relations have flourished discreetly in recent years.
After welcoming the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier yesterday, Trump said “five or six” other countries were close to making similar deals with Israel, but did not name them. “I think Israel is not isolated anymore,” he said.
Both men have sought to capitalise on regional changes while facing domestic condemnation for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Only a few people among the dozens of attendees at yesterday’s ceremony wore face masks
By signing “peace agreements”, the two embattled leaders can boast of significant foreign policy wins even as frustration festers at home.
As well as Netanyahu, Trump hosted the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, on the White House’s South Lawn – the same spot where Bill Clinton famously stood in 1993 as the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, shook hands.
In reference to the three monotheistic religions, Trump’s “Abraham accords” will establish open business, direct flights and diplomatic relations. However, they fall short of full peace deals as the three countries already maintain significant informal ties and have not been at war.
Regardless, Trump presented the deals as between “warring” nations. “Even Bibi gets tired of war,” he joked in a meeting with Netanyahu, using the Israeli leader’s nickname.
Trump is up for re-election on November 3 and is looking to gather support from pro-Israel, and often Christian evangelical, voters. Before yesterday’s ceremony, a jazz band played a version of the 1970s disco hit Love Is in the Air.
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