he United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday (September 15) were at the White House to sign agreements toward normalizing relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.
Bahrain’s Zayani was first to arrive. A smiling Trump greeted him as he stepped out of his limousine.
Meeting the Emirati foreign minister before the ceremony, Trump thanked the UAE for being first in the Gulf to agree to ties with Israel and left little doubt the Iran issue was overhanging the event.
Trump said the agreement could lead to “real peace in the Middle East for the first time.”
We’ve taken a very different path. You could say it’s a back door, but I call it a smart door, not a back door. I call it a smart door,” Trump said.
Trump predicted that Iran, under heavy U.S. sanctions, would want to reach a deal with Washington, which has been trying to get it to renegotiate an international nuclear deal. Tehran has shown no sign of budging.
The White House ceremony capped a dramatic month that saw UAE and then Bahrain agree to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.
The deals make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalize ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
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 program only to find actual achievements elusive.
Bringing Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together reflects their shared concern about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has been critical of both deals.
With Trump up for re-election on Nov. 3, the accords could help shore up support among pro-Israel Christian evangelical voters, an important part of his political base.
Frustrated by the Palestinians’ refusal to take part in Trump’s Middle East peace initiative, the White House has sought to bypass them in hopes they will see the deals with the UAE and Bahrain as incentives, even leverage, for peace talks.
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 normalization with the UAE, to suspend a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Palestinians view the new agreements as weakening a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
(Production: Deborah Gembara)