President Donald Trump hosts a White House ceremony with leaders of the UAE and Bahrain but without the Palestinians.
The Bahrain and UAE have signed agreements to normalise relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.
United States President Donald Trump hosted a White House ceremony on Tuesday making this month dramatic when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will despite lack of resolution of Israel’s decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.
In a ceremony organized by the US, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
The signed agreements with Bahrain and UAE make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalise ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
The minister of foreign affairs for UAE, Anwar Gargash, said his country’s decision to normalise relations with Israel had “broken the psychological barrier” and was “the way forward” for the region.
The back-to-back agreements, which have drawn bitter condemnation from the Palestinians, mark an improbable diplomatic victory for Trump. He has spent his presidency forecasting deals on such intractable problems as North Korea’s nuclear programme only to find actual achievements elusive.
Bringing Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together may be their shared concern about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has been critical of both deals. Fellow Gulf state Qatar has ruled out normalising ties with Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
With Trump up for re-election on November 3, the accords could help shore up support among pro-Israel Christian evangelical voters in the US, an important part of his political base.
Speaking to Fox News hours before the ceremony, Trump said he expected more Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel and predicted the Palestinians would eventually join as well or else be “left out in the cold”.
One target of White House appeals is Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power. So far, the Saudis, whose king is the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and rules the world’s largest oil exporter, have signalled they are not ready.
Another target is Oman, whose leader spoke with Trump last week but Qatar’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Lolwah al-Khater, told Bloomberg on Monday that normalising relations with Isreal “can’t be the answer” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.