Breaking taboo, UAE and Bahrain to sign deals in United States with Israel

Clay Curtis
September 15, 2020

The Palestinian leadership, which has long accused Trump of pro-Israel bias, has denounced the Arab rapprochement with Israel as a betrayal of their cause, even though Netanyahu agreed, in return for normalisation with the UAE, to suspend a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a US president will host a signing ceremony between Israelis and Arabs at the White House, billing it as an "historic breakthrough" in a region long known for its stubborn conflicts. Fellow Gulf state Qatar has ruled out normalising ties with Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

The back-to-back agreements, which have drawn bitter condemnation from the Palestinians, mark an improbable diplomatic victory for Trump.

Former vice president Joe Biden, Trump's Democratic opponent, said he supports more countries normalizing relations with Israel in response to a recent VOA question, but also said he believes "that Israel has to be prepared to work toward a genuine two-state solution" with the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates arrived Tuesday at the White House to sign historic accords normalizing ties between the Jewish and Arab states. Israel - now the only country in the region to possess the United States warplanes - has pushed back, insisting on retaining its overwhelming technical advantage against its Arab neighbors. Trump did not name the countries he is negotiating with - but they could include Oman, Sudan, Morocco and others. "And I think positive things will happen there, too", Trump told reporters.

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Israel, Bahrain and the UAE are expected to sign a trilateral document, in addition to the bilateral agreements. Palestinian activists held small demonstrations Tuesday inthe West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.

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.

"You're going to have peace in the Middle East", Trump said, adding that countries including Iran were "actually getting to a point where they're going to want to make a deal". He told Fox News Channel on Tuesday morning more such pacts involving Israel are likely ahead.

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. On Aug. 13, the Israel-UAE deal was announced. Gantz also adds that the UAE and Bahrain were specifically countries "whom we've never fought and who have never fought us, not even through proxies".

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