WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel on Tuesday signed historic diplomatic pacts with two Gulf Arab states at a White House ceremony that President Donald Trump declared will mark the “dawn of a new Middle East," casting himself as an international peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign.

The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel's already thawing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in line with their common opposition to Iran. But the agreements do not address the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state.

Hundreds of people massed on the sunwashed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements in a festive atmosphere little marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees did not practice social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks.

“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.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the day "is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace.”

Neither Netanyahu nor Trump mentioned the Palestinians in their remarks, but both the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers spoke of the importance of creating a Palestinian state.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, even thanked Netanyahu for “halting the annexation” of West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians in exchange for Emirati recognition. Netanyahu, however, has insisted that Israel has only temporarily suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements.

“Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East — a change that will send hope around the world,” al-Nahyan said.

Bahrani Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani said Bahrain would stand with the Palestinians. “Today is a truly historic occasion,” he said. “A moment for hope and opportunity.”

But in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israe l, apparently meant to coincide with the ceremony. The Israeli military said the rockets were fired from Gaza and one was intercepted by air defenses. Earlier in the day, Palestinian activists held small demonstrations in the West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel and the U.S. hope the agreements can usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit. That could have implications for Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Until now, Israel has had peace deals only with Egypt and Jordan.

Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.

“We are very down the road with about five different countries,” Trump told reporters before the ceremony.

Skeptics, including many longtime Mideast analysts and former officials, have expressed doubts about the impact of the signings.

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

The “Abraham Accords” and the bilateral agreement signed by Israel and Bahrain fell short of more detailed formal treaties that are the diplomatic norm. Both documents were made up of general statements pledging to advance diplomacy, mutual cooperation and regional peace.

The most detailed of the agreements was the one between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The nations agreed to approve bilateral agreements on 15 areas of mutual interest, including finance, trade, aviation, energy, telecommunications, health, agriculture and water.

During the signing ceremony, the leaders were seated at a long table where President Harry S. Truman once held weekly luncheon meetings with his Cabinet. Discussions about the Truman Doctrine to restrain Soviet expansion during the Cold War and the Marshall Plan to send billions in economic aid to Western Europe after World War II were held at the table.

The stagecraft, including live music and flags was meant to evoke previous Middle East agreements. Trump's political backers are looking 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.

Besides Republicans, a few House Democrats attended the event, a notable development at a time when their leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is barely on speaking terms with the president. Many Democrats, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, widely support the deal.

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said she accepted the invitation immediately on receiving it over the weekend. “It definitely was a monumental event, and the ceremony was very fitting for that,” Luria, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a telephone interview afterward.

Like Luria, some other Democrats in attendance, such as Rep. Anthony Brindisi of New York, are freshmen in tough reelection races. Still others, such as Florida Reps. Ted Deutch and Stephanie Murphy hail from districts with large numbers of Jewish constituents.

Questions remain, however, about the significance of the agreements. Even in Israel, where the accords have received widespread acclaim, there is concern they might result in U.S. 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. 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.

The UAE and Bahrain have a history of suppressing dissent and critical public opinion, but there have been indications that the agreements are not nearly as popular or well-received as they are in Israel. Neither country sent its head of state or government to sign the deals with Netanyahu.

Bahrain’s largest Shiite-dominated opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which the government ordered dissolved in 2016 amid a yearslong crackdown on dissent, said there is widespread rejection of normalization.

The ceremony followed 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 Aug. 13, the Israel-UAE deal was announced. That was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, and then the Sept. 11 announcement of the Bahrain-Israel agreement.

———

Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Laurie Kellman in Washington and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(22) comments

Dwasserba

"Attendees did not practice social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks." Well YAY for them. That'll show us.

threecents

DW, Good catch. Israel is having a second wave of coronavirus infections and just went into another shutdown. https://time.com/5889096/israel-second-lockdown-covid-19/

pdl603

Thanks Mr. President for doing your job. Funny how the supposed ‘uniter in chief‘ Obama couldn't get this done. Obama decided to pal up with the largest state sponsor of terror Iran. Why was that? What will the LLBTT say when 5 or 6 more countries sign on?

shiftless88

Just to point out, these countries were not at war.

C.D.Reid

Did anyone say they were?

bosco

Just to point out:

"The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel's already thawing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in line with their common opposition to Iran".

"The “Abraham Accords” and the bilateral agreement signed by Israel and Bahrain fell short of more detailed formal treaties that are the diplomatic norm. Both documents were made up of general statements pledging to advance diplomacy, mutual cooperation and regional peace.

The most detailed of the agreements was the one between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The nations agreed to approve bilateral agreements on 15 areas of mutual interest, including finance, trade, aviation, energy, telecommunications, health, agriculture and water".

[ninja]

pdl603

What would the Harris-Biden administration do?

bosco

They are still trying to get a copy of Trump's plan so that they can plagiarize it and then they can announce the Harris-Biden plan.

[ninja]

hayduke2

Trump's plan [lol][lol][lol][lol]

threecents

They would say no to peace and demand more arms sales, right? Wait - on that subject of arms sales in the unstable middle east, these agreements don't have to do with arms sales to countries with conflicts with Iran, do they? That brings to mind when Trump refused to punish Saudi Arabia for brutally murdering an American journalists. Trump said his reasoning was that he did not want to endanger our deals to sell $billions of arms to Saudi Arabia.

pdl603

First and foremost you, like your Party leaders, are lying about this again. First, Khasoggi was a Saudi citizen who wrote tripe for the propaganda arm of the democrat party. Second, the president help bring together parties willing to advance prospects for peace. Something the most corrupt president ever, Obama, could not do. Can you tell me what the Harris-Bidenz ticket would do different, other than fail to do anything? Or, are you more comfortable with the Harris presidency w/ Joe Bidenz?

C.D.Reid

What would the Harris-Biden administration do? Probably give a few more billion to Iran. "Play nice" money, ya know.

Lemmy

Hezbollah and Democrats are angry over this. That's very telling.

bosco

According to Nancy "Come on Down to Chinatown" Pelosi, the mideast peace deal brokered by Trump is a distraction.

[lol][lol][lol][lol][ninja]

C.D.Reid

Yeah, she and her cronies are going to do all they can to play this down, they know it's going to be a major boost to Trump's reelection campaign. I can't wait until the Blind Biden Sheeple of the LLBTT chime in on it. They were pretty quiet yesterday, though, must have been too busy playing in their sandbox to get involved.

TomWheatley

Typical negative spin and digs before actually getting on to the real news. Countries are beginning to accept the existence of Israel.

sevenstones1000

UAE and Bahrain have been trading openly with Israel for decades. Get real.

sevenstones1000

Can you explain what peace has been made? The entities at war are Israel and the Palestinians. I don’t see any agreement there. UAE and Bahrain have nothing to do with Palestine. You are easily lied to by Trump, apparently.

C.D.Reid

"What peace has been made?" Maybe the point is to maintain the peace that is. Don't you think it's worth trying to get all the countries in the region to cooperate in doing that?

hayduke2

Okay CD, I'll buy that the point is to maintain the peace that is. How did the Obama administration fail to do that? Seems to me we still have problems in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and with the Palestine settlements. Someone who is cynical may say this is just a way for the UAE and Bahrain to secure US weapons, particularly aircraft. Before you go off, I applaud any attempt at calming down this area but am also a bit of a skeptic. Notice the paragraphs above that note this agreement did not follow normal diplomatic protcols and wording, that certain heads of state didn't attend and they aren't received with great enthusiam. Could this be a photo op for both Trump and Netanyahu ( who also is looked at for corruption in his administration). So yeah, this has potential but, just like with NK and being able to sleep better, I'll be a bit skeptical.

TomWheatley

In some sense, the Arab-Jewish conflict is a family issue dating to the days of Abraham and the world's poking it's collective nose in it (see below per the 1922 Balfour Declaration by the League of Nations and 1947 UN resolution taken from history.com) has not resolved much of it. One should note that the people living in the area before 1947 were under British subjugation and there was no definitive 'State' of either Palestinians nor Jewish.

So, did the UN take land from one country and handed it to another? Perhaps depending on one's take of the rearrangement of the global boundaries after wars. The Ottoman Empire was carved up after WWI and many borders changed after WWII. One thing I find interesting given all the bluster by Syria and Jordan over the decades since 1947 is that they have never offered their land to create a Palestinian homeland. Granted Israel is not helping in this at all. I would love to see Jerusalem become an international city acknowledging the religions of Judaism, Muslim and that newcomer Christianity with free and open passage for all.

The below are excerpts from history.com. Sorry for the length and hopefully the word wrap works this time, but it may be instructive to know the region's history.

Much of what scholars know about Israel’s ancient history comes from the Hebrew Bible. According to the text, Israel’s origins can be traced back to Abraham, who is considered the father of both Judaism (through his son Isaac) and Islam (through his son Ishmael).

Abraham’s descendants were thought to be enslaved by the Egyptians for hundreds of years before settling in Canaan, which is approximately the region of modern-day Israel.

Around 722 B.C., the Assyrians invaded and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. In 568 B.C., the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first temple, which was replaced by a second temple in about 516 B.C.

For the next several centuries, the land of modern-day Israel was conquered and ruled by various groups, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists and others.

The Balfour Declaration

From 1517 to 1917, Israel, along with much of the Middle East, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. But World War I dramatically altered the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. In 1917, at the height of the war, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour submitted a letter of intent supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British government hoped that the formal declaration—known thereafter as the Balfour Declaration—would encourage support for the Allies in World War I.

When World War I ended in 1918 with an Allied victory, the 400-year Ottoman Empire rule ended, and Great Britain took control over what became known as Palestine (modern-day Israel, Palestine and Jordan).

The Balfour Declaration and the British mandate over Palestine were approved by the League of Nations in 1922. Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour Declaration, concerned that a Jewish homeland would mean the subjugation of Arab Palestinians.

The British controlled Palestine until Israel, in the years following the end of World War II, became an independent state in 1947.

Israeli Independence

The United Nations approved a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state in 1947, but the Arabs rejected it. In May 1948, Israel was officially declared an independent state with David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, as the prime minister.

1948 Arab-Israeli War

Following the announcement of an independent Israel, five Arab nations—Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon—immediately invaded the region in what became known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Civil war broke out throughout all of Israel, but a cease-fire agreement was reached in 1949. As part of the temporary armistice agreement, the West Bank became part of Jordan, and the Gaza Strip became Egyptian territory.

C.D.Reid

Interestingvread, Tom, thanks for posting it. And thanks for quoting History.com and not Wikipedia.

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