The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed U.S.-brokered agreements Tuesday to normalize ties with Israel, which participants say augurs a shift change for peace in the world’s most volatile region.
“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” said U.S. President Donald Trump at a signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.”
The agreements mark the first treaties between Israel and an Arab nation since Egypt signed one in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Unlike those two countries, the UAE and Bahrain have never fought wars against the Jewish State. But the agreements will normalize ties between the nations, and represent the latest success in Israel’s — and the Trump administration’s — attempts to forge closer ties between the Jewish state and Sunni Arab nations, who see Iran as a common enemy.
Trump said the agreements, collectively known as the Abraham Accords, represent “a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”
Three documents were signed: a declaration by all parties, a bilateral agreement between Israel and the UAE, and a bilateral agreement between Israel and Bahrain. trump also signed each document, as a witness.
“Together, these agreements will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region, something which nobody thought was possible,” said Trump, “but one founded on shared interest, mutual respect and friendship.”
While the White House had not released the text of the agreements as of Tuesday afternoon, Trump said that as a result of the agreement, the three nations would “establish embassies, exchange ambassadors and begin … to work together so strongly to cooperate as partners across the broad range of sectors, from tourism to trade and healthcare to security.” The agreement, said Trump, will “also open the door for Muslims around the world to visit the historic sites in Israel, and to peacefully pray at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the signing of the agreements is “a pivot of history; it heralds a new dawn of peace.
“For thousands of years, the Jewish People have prayed for peace,” said the Prime Minister. “For decades, the Jewish State has prayed for peace. And this is why today we’re filled with such profound gratitude.”
Netanyahu recounted being wounded in battle himself, and having a fellow soldier die in his arms; and how his brother Yoni, Hy”d, was killed during the 1976 raid to free Jews held hostage by Palestinian terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda.
“Those who bear the wounds of war,” said the Prime Minister, “cherish the blessings of peace.”
Participants said Tuesday’s signings were the first in what they hope will be a wave of agreements between Israel and Sunni Arab states. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said, “Today we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East, a change that will send hope around the world.”
In remarks to media earlier Tuesday, Trump had said, “We’re very far down the road with about five additional countries.”
While no other countries have been named, Saudi Arabia, the leading Sunni player in the region, has been drawing closer to Israel recently and was at least partially involved in these negotiations.
While Palestinians and their supporters have been angered by the agreements, the Arab leaders at Tuesday’s event expressed some support for the Palestinians and hope that they can reach their own agreement with Israel.
As part of the negotiations, Israel has agreed to put on hold the annexation of Yehudah and Shomron. The UAE foreign minister, who spoke in Arabic, directly addressed Netanyahu in his remarks, saying, “Thank you for choosing peace and for halting the annexation of Palestinian territories.”
Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, speaking in English, said, “For too long, the Middle East has been set back by conflict and distrust, causing untold destruction, and thwarting the potential of generations of our best and brightest young people. Now, I’m convinced we have the opportunity to change that.”
The Minister called the agreement “an important first step, and it is now incumbent on us to work urgently and actively to bring about the lasting peace and security our peoples deserve. A just, comprehensive, and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict will be the foundation, the bedrock of such peace.”
Neither Arab nation had its top leader participate in the signing, but sent its foreign minister instead.
A thousand people attended the ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House early Tuesday afternoon, as a chilly morning in the nation’s capital turned into a mild late-summer day. The lawn still bore the scars of damage wrought by the recent Republican National Convention that Trump had controversially held on its grounds last month, as normal convention venues were unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the attendees at Tuesday’s event wore masks. The signees did not wear masks, but did not shake hands, either.
Dozens of Members of Congress participated in Tuesday’s ceremony, both Democrats and Republicans. The White House did not confirm whether any other nations had representatives at the event.
Supporters of Israel hailed the agreement as an important step for changing how Israel is viewed by other nations in the region.
Speaking to a group of reporters on the South Lawn, Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the U.N., said he has already received phone calls and congratulations from U.N. ambassadors of other nations, and noted that meetings which in the past “were very hard [for Israel] to achieve with other Muslim countries, now are happening very easily, because it is legitimizing relations with the state of Israel. And that’s why it is so important.”
During the ceremony, Palestinian terrorists fired rockets on the Israeli cities Ashdod and Ashkelon. Erdan said, “Palestinians as always are trying to ruin the moment by continuing with terror attacks on Israel – my family is from Ashkelon and I know very well what is the feeling right now in the southern cities of Israel – but it won’t help. They will continue to miss every opportunity, but we will continue to strengthen the State of Israel, and obviously this is something that will change the future of Israel, will change the future of the Middle East. ”
In comments to Hamodia, American supporters of Israel who attended Tuesday’s ceremony also touted the significance of the accords.
“Peace has been hard earned,” said New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch. “May we merit to see continued peace efforts in our times.”
“This is a game-changing event; this is just the beginning,” said former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “Everyone in this country – Democrats, Republicans, independents, whoever you are – if you love peace, you have to love what happened today.”