By Agency Reporter
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday hosted leaders from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the signing of agreements for normalizing relations with Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The White House ceremony capped a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill-will toward Israel without a resolution of its decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.
Atop a balcony with Trump overlooking a crowd of several hundred on the White House lawn, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood alongside Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
The deals, denounced by the Palestinians, 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.
Meeting Netanyahu earlier in the Oval Office, Trump said, “We’ll have at least five or six countries coming along very quickly” to forge their own accords with Israel. But he did not name any of the nations involved in such talks.
Speaking from the balcony, Trump said: “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said, calling it “a major stride in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”
He said the three Middle East countries “are going to work together, they are friends.”
The back-to-back agreements 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.
Speaking to Fox News hours before the ceremony, Trump said he expected more Arab countries to normalize 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 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.
Oman was expected to send its ambassador to Tuesday’s ceremony, a senior U.S. official said.
There was no word on whether the Saudis would attend, though their quiet acquiescence to the agreements has been seen as crucial.