WASHINGTON Israel and the two Arab nations signed agreements at the White House on Tuesday to normalize their relations, a step toward a Middle East reshuffle but one that failed to address the future of the Palestinians.
President Trump presided over a Southern Lawn ceremony where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed a general statement of principles that the White House has called the Abrahamic Agreements, after the biblical father of the three religions monotheistic, as well as individual agreements between Israel and the two Arab states.
Mr. Trump declared it a historic moment for their region. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East, Mr. Trump said.
The texts of the agreements detail how the three countries will open embassies and establish other new diplomatic and economic ties, including tourism, technology and energy. Israel and the UAE have started commercial air travel between their countries for the first time and Bahrain has opened its airspace for those flights.
They make little reference to the fate of the Palestinians, but include a call for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The agreements are the first such agreements between Israel and an Arab state since 1994, when the Jewish state established diplomatic relations with Jordan. They are also another step towards forming a de facto alliance between Israel and the Gulf Arab Sunni monarchies, against their common enemy, Shiite Iran. Pressure on Iran has been a central goal of Mr. Trumps foreign policy, and Trump officials have worked to build a common regional front against Tehran in which Saudi Arabia has played a major role.
Speaking from the entrance over the South Portico, just below the Truman balcony, Mr. Trump said the deals were just the beginning. Today’s signing puts history on a new course and there will be other countries very, very soon making similar deals, ending the isolation of Israelis in the region.
In remarks to reporters ahead of the ceremony, Mr Trump said five nations could quickly take similar steps and suggested one was Saudi Arabia, in what analysts say would be a much more dramatic breakthrough. Analysts believe that Sudan and Oman are the best candidates for normalization in the short term. But they say Bahrain most likely acted only with the blessing of Riyadh and that the Saudi kings are weighing their move.
Mr Netanyahu also suggested that more nations would follow. This day is a pivot of history, he said. It heralds a new dawn of peace.
That peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states, and ultimately it could end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all, he added.
The Palestinians expressed their anger over the deals by launching rockets into Israel from Gaza during the White House ceremony.
The staging of the event appears to have been intended to summon the scene more than 25 years ago to the same place when President Bill Clinton mediated an iconic deal and handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Mr Trump said there would be peace in the Middle East, a phrase that usually suggests a solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
But Dennis B. Ross, a former Middle East peace negotiator who helped mediate that 1993 deal, said the two events were very different. He said the agreements signed on Tuesday were significant because they demonstrated that the Palestinians could not freeze the region and prevent open cooperation with Israel.
On the other hand, he noted that the UAE and Bahrain are countries that are not at war with Israel and have cooperated silently with it, and that the day did not have the feeling in 1993 that something profound psychologically and historically was happening in the White House.
Mr. Trump demanded the same to create a sense of drama as he was joined by his guests to make remarks from the South Portico, a very unusual place for official events.
Then, to the sound of roaring horns and crashing cymbals, the four men moved to a long table in front of the South Portico to sign three sets of agreements in front of a seated audience that the White House rated at 800 people, many of them who do not wear masks.
Among those present was Mr. Trumps groom and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has made peace in the Middle East a major focus of his White House work and has helped mediate deals.
But analysts noted that Mr. Kushners’s initial goal of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians is as far-fetched as ever, months after Palestinian leaders announced a peace plan he spent years plotting to die on arrival.
His non-conflict resolution and its peace this is a business deal, said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a pro-Israel liberal advocacy group sharply critical of Mr. Netanyahu. , It is very, very clear that there are equal interests between Israel and these military, security, diplomatic, economic countries and these interests have been there for two decades.
That formalizes it, but should not be overstated as resolving a crucial conflict for Israel with its neighbors, he added. Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, he said, remains unaddressed with the deal.
Not mentioned in the official proceedings was Iran’s gravitational pull, which played a key role in bringing the parties together, analysts said.
To state clearly, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, does not deserve a small part of the credit for this progress, as it has created the conditions for long-term security consultations and cooperation between the Gulf and Israel, said Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.
What was clear in this case, broadcast live on major cable networks less than 50 days before the November election, was Mr Trumps’ political interests. The Trump campaign, eager to portray the warlike president as a diplomat and peacemaker, has benefited from online advertising deals suggesting he deserves nothing less than the Nobel Prize nominated by two Scandinavian right-wing lawmakers. it.
The interests of Mr. Netanyahu was also well served. The Israeli prime minister, who has long had a symbiotic relationship with the US president, is going through two political crises at home: a coronavirus resurgence that led him to order a new national blockade, and a trial on criminal corruption charges.
The two men never looked closer than on Tuesday. Earlier meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump presented him with a large golden key embedded in a wooden box that he described as a key to the White House, a key to our country.
You have the key to the hearts of the people of Israel, replied Mr. Netanyahu.
This is peace in the Middle East without blood on all sand, added Mr. Trump.
There was at least one potentially volatile moment between them, however, when Mr. Trump said that if re-elected, he would try to make a deal with Iran, which has so far refused to negotiate with it after withdrawing from the 2015 nucleus. agreement mediated by the Obama administration.
“I will make a good deal with Iran,” Trump said. I will make a deal that is great for Iran. Will bring them back again. We would help them in any way we could. And Iran will be very happy. Iran will be very rich and very soon.
Mr Netanyahu has strongly opposed negotiations with what he calls the murderous Iranian regime. Ms. Maloney said his host comments were probably not the ones Bibi was shopping for.
As a condition of the Emirates agreement to normalize relations, Mr Netanyahu agreed to freeze his plan to annex parts of the West Bank. But the Palestinians seemed a later thought, barely mentioned in the days of official remarks.
Palestinian leaders, however, showed no sign of reviewing their firm refusal to negotiate with Israel as part of a Trump White House peace plan released in January or their view of the Tuesday deal.
A public declaration by the Palestine Liberation Organization called it a black day in the history of the Palestinian people, saying peace requires an end to the Israeli occupation.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdul Latif al-Zayani stressed the Palestinian issue in his speech, however, saying a just, comprehensive and lasting two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would be the foundation of a regional peace. .
And his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, thanked Mr. Netanyahu for stopping the annexation of the Palestinian territories, a decision that strengthens our common will to achieve a better future for generations to come.
The Trump administration also had to deny agreeing to a sale of US-made fighter jets in the UAE that the Emirates were said to have given a condition to Tuesday’s deal.
Speaking to Fox News earlier in the day, Mr Trump said he would have absolutely no problem selling the F-35 in the Emirates, despite objections within Israel.
In a statement, Chairman Nancy Pelosi said the deals were made for an important day, but warned of important unanswered questions, including regarding the F-35. Mrs. Pelosi said Congress will observe and monitor to ensure that Israel can maintain its qualitative military advantage in the region, referring to a term in U.S. law banning regional arms sales that could endanger Israel.
Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli national security adviser and author of Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change, said it was possible to join wires at an Emirates plane sale that could satisfy Israeli concerns .
He noted that when a similar riot greeted the Reagan administrations pushing to sell fighter jets to Egypt, that country agreed not to place them at its Tobruk air base.
If that’s the price of peace, he said of aircraft sales, there are ways to reduce the threat by not selling them ships, stopping them from deploying outside their territory or degrading avionics, to name a few.
David M. Halbfinger contributed to the report from Jerusalem.
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