President Donald Trump said Thursday the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state. (Aug. 13)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced Friday that Bahrain would move to normalize relations with Israel, building on the president’s push for closer ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The White House announced last month that the United Arab Emirates and Israel had agreed to formalize diplomatic relations, paving the way for Friday’s deal with Bahrainand giving Trump a fresh foreign policy win ahead of the November election.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain agree to a Peace Deal – the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days!” Trump tweeted on Friday.
The president tweeted out a copy of the six-paragraph deal between Israel, Bahrain and the U.S., which said Bahrain and Israel will establish “full diplomatic relations.”
“Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security and prosperity,” the statement said.
President Donald Trump listens as Jared Kushner speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Washington. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)
Trump will welcome UAE and Israeli officials to the White House next week for a signing ceremony on Tuesday. Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa is also scheduled to attend that ceremony.
As part of the deal with the UAE, Israel agreed to temporarily halt its controversial plan to annex parts of the West Bank, land that Palestinians see as vital to their hopes of a future state.
The only other Arab nations to have active diplomatic ties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan.
Bahrain, an island kingdom, is a pivotal U.S. ally in the Middle East. The country hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
“This is a truly historic day,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. “When I took office the Middle East was in a state of absolute chaos.”
Trump has delegated Middle East peace negotiations to his son and adviser, Jared Kushner. In a briefing with reporters on Friday, Kushner did not answer questions about whether Israel had made concessions to win the deal, nor did he say whether the U.S. had agreed to push through new arms sales to Bahrain or provide other assistance to the kingdom.
“This deal was a great breakthrough for them and for their people,” Kushner said in sidestepping those issues.
After the White House unveiled the UAE deal, questions emerged about whether the Trump administration had agreed to sell that country F-35 fighter jets as part of the agreement.
Last month, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, H.E. Anwar Gargash, confirmed UAE is pursuing a deal on the F-35s with the Trump administration. But he said it’s been a longstanding request and sidestepped questions about whether it was part of the Israel-UAE peace deal.
During a forum hosted by the Atlantic Council, Gargash said an F-35 deal is “on the table” and noted the UAE had first requested those planes six years ago. He said the peace deal should eliminate concerns that the UAE represents a military threat to Israel and thus should pave the way for an F-35 sale to go through.
“We ought to get them,” he said, particularly now that “the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war” with Israel no longer exists.
When pressed on possible arms sales to Bahrain, Kushner said many details of the agreement would be hashed out in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been able to broker this breakthrough at the leadership level, and now people will get together on the working levels … to start talking through some of the opportunities,” he said.
Kushner portrayed the Bahrain deal as a watershed moment in Middle East peace.
“We’re seeing the beginning of a new Middle East,” he said. “I do believe that it’s an inevitability that all countries in the Middle East will normalize relations with Israel.”
And Trump, who has promoted the UAE-Israel agreement on the campaign trail, told reporters Thursday that “you’ll be hearing other countries coming in over a relatively short period of time. And you could have peace in the Middle East.”
“… I can see a lot of good things happening with respect to the Palestinians,” the president added.
But Kushner’s much-touted plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not gained any traction.
The Palestinians do not see the Trump administration as a neutral negotiator, in large part because of the president’s staunchly pro-Israel policies. And while Kushner’s proposal endorsed a “two-state” solution – an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel – Trump’s commitment to it has been an open question. It also sought to limit Palestinians to specific parts of East Jerusalem and leave Israel in sole charge of holy sites that are sacred to both sides.
Critics say Trump is taking credit for the fruits of diplomacy that began years ago.
“President Trump taking credit for this is like the rooster taking credit for the dawn,” said Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress specializing in the Middle East.
“This latest agreement by itself is an encouraging sign of progress in a region that has been racked with conflict and civil wars. But it’s hard to credit the Trump administration with this deal,” he said.
Katulis argued that agreement is due to shifting interests and alliances that have been in motion for many years.
“It is unlikely that this deal, combined with the one between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, will fundamentally shift the overall instability in the Middle East. These deals do nothing to de-escalate tensions with Iran, and it does not appear to produce any progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.
William Wechsler, director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs, said there’s no question the deal marks a shift in the dynamics of the Middle East.
“We are witnessing the emergence of a new geopolitics of the Middle East,” he said.
But “the U.S. is unfortunately seen to be in the early stages of withdrawing from the region, exacerbated by U.S. troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan driven by our election calendar and President Trump’s repeated insistence that the U.S. no longer has interests in maintaining the free flow of energy, something that has defined our role for forty years,” he said.
Wechsler said the danger is that “this new regional geopolitics is likely to be even less stable than even the dangerous one to which we have become accustomed, with a larger number of actors and a more uncertain future. If the U.S. was to reaffirm its traditional role and avoid withdrawal, that would go a long way toward reinforcing this emerging coalition and thus improving regional security and diminishing everyone’s uncertainty about the future.”
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