Declaring “the dawn of a new Middle East,” President 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. Hundreds of people, most without masks, amassed 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.” More from the AP:
- 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.
- 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. Skeptics, including many longtime Mideast analysts and former officials, have expressed doubts about their impact and lamented that they ignore the Palestinians, who have rejected them as a stab in the back by fellow Arabs. Palestinian activists held small demonstrations Tuesday 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.
- 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. “They’re very wealthy countries for the most part ... some are extraordinarily, like UAE,” Trump told Fox & Friends in an interview before the ceremony. “And they would like to buy some fighter jets and I personally would have no problem with it.”
- Yet 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. "We are very down the road with about five different countries,” Trump told reporters before the ceremony.
- The ceremony follows months of intricate diplomacy headed by Jared Kushner 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.
(Read more Israel