President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the Israeli annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.
The announcement makes the UAE only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel, after Egypt and Jordan, and, in with it, Israel forgoes plans to annex occupied West Bank territory in order to focus on improving its relationship with the rest of the Arab world.
In a surprise announcement, Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal.
But Thursday’s announcement – while a win for the White House – abandoned the ‘deal of a century’ Trump’s administration unveiled in January – a plan put together by Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, who President Trump tasked with peace in the Middle East.
In that plan, Israel would annex much of the West Bank in return for the rest being part of a ‘two state solution,’ in which the future Palestinian state would consist of the West Bank and Gaza, connected by a combination of above-ground roads and tunnels.
Trump, however, spent Thursday crowing over the deal his administration had achieved.
‘This is very important. This is a big event,’ Trump said in a hastily scheduled Oval Office announcement. ‘This is a truly historic moment. Not since the Israel/Jordan peace treaty was signed more than 25 years ago has so much progress been made towards peace in the Middle East. By uniting two of America’s closest and most capable partners in the region – something which said could not be done – this deal is a significant step towards building a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East. Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead.’
The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition while efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway.
Kushner joined President Trump in the Oval Office for the announcement.
‘What happened was here we were able to achieve results others were not able to achieve and it will advance the region and the whole world. I would like to say to the people of the region – Muslims, Jews, Christians – that this does give hope that the problems of the past do not condemn you to a future with conflict,’ Kushner said.
President Trump said there would be a signing ceremony at the White House in ‘the next few weeks.’
‘It was like in love,’ Trump said of his calls earlier that with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. ‘Tremendous relationship built up over the last year. Before that it was very tense, as everything in the Middle East is, very tense. It is a very tense place. It is becoming less tense.’
The deal will consist of the two countries signing agreements on investment, tourism, security, technology, energy and other areas. It will also allow direct flights between Israel and the UAE and set up reciprocal embassies in each other’s nation.
For Israel, Thursday’s announcement comes after years of boasting by Netanyahu that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged.
Deal – and your plan is trashed, Jared: Donald Trump says Israel will abandon part of his own Middle East peace plan in return for diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates
What Trump proposed – and is now abandoning: This was the ‘deal of the century’ unveiled by the White House in January which is now off the agenda in return for Israel getting full diplomatic relations with the UAE, which includes Abu Dhabi
International relations: Benjamin Netanyahu’s rocky coalition government is now going to have full relations with the United Arab Emirates, whose de facto ruler is Abu Dhabi’s crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
Israel in revolt: Netanyahu’s government has been the target of large-scale demonstrations with anger over
‘A historic day,’ Netanyahu called it in a tweet.
Netanyahu has sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas.
For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its international campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers. It also puts the UAE out first in a regional recognition race among neighboring Gulf Arab states.
And for the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the announcement marked both a win and setback.
While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.
A joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel was issued immediately after Trump’s tweet. It said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,’ said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the day-to-day ruler of the UAE. It said the leaders had a three-way call discussing the deal.
But a senior Israeli official told Reuters applying Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank – territory Palestinians seek for a state along with Gaza and East Jerusalem – was still on the agenda.
The official said, ‘The Trump administration asked us to temporarily suspend the (sovereignty) announcement so that the historic peace agreement with the UAE can be implemented.’
Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999, but later ended relations in 2009 over the Israel´s war in Gaza at the time.
The announcement on President Trump’s desk in the Oval Office
Officials applaud after President Trump announced the deal
In addition to Trump, the main U.S. mediators for agreement were the president´s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, special Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Friedman said it would be called the Abraham accord.
5’Abraham, as many of you know, was the father of all three great faiths,’ he said in the Oval Office. ‘No person better symbolizes the potential for unity among all these three great faiths than Abraham. That’s why this accord has been given that name.’
President Trump joked he wanted to call the deal ‘the Donald J. Trump accord but Id didn’t think the press would understand.’
The UAE is a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Formed in 1971, the country like other Arab nations at the time did not recognize Israel over its occupation of land home to the Palestinians.
‘Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood,’ the UAE´s founding ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, once pronounced when agreeing to an oil boycott over U.S. military support to Israel in the 1973 Mideast war.
The UAE relied on white-collar Palestinians in creating its nation. Over time, it maintained its stance that Israel allow the creation of a Palestinian state on land it seized in the 1967 war.
But in recent years, ties between Gulf Arab nations and Israel have quietly grown, in part over their shared enmity of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Prince Mohammed also shares Israel´s distrust of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the militant group Hamas that holds the Gaza Strip.
It remains unclear what prompted Israel and the UAE to make the announcement now. In June, the United Arab Emirates´ ambassador to the U.S. warned in an Israeli newspaper op-ed that Israel´s planned annexing the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank would ‘upend’ Israel´s efforts to improve ties with Arab nations.
The agreement gives Netanyahu a domestic boost at a time when Israel’s shaky coalition government is plagued by infighting and facing the possibility of early elections in the coming months.
Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet as the country grapples with a renewed coronavirus outbreak and skyrocketing unemployment as the result of earlier lockdown measures.
Netanyahu also delivered a valuable diplomatic achievement to his good friend, Trump, ahead of U.S. elections.
Still, by dropping the annexation plan Netanyahu may be hedging his bets ahead of a possible change in the White House.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has made clear that he would oppose any moves by Israel to unilaterally redraw the Mideast map and annex lands sought by the Palestinians.
Netanyahu also risked criticism inside his own hard-line Likud Party, whose members strongly supported annexation. Netanyahu appears to be betting that Likud members – and the small, but influential settler movement – will agree the peace agreement delivers more benefits than unilateral annexation. Opinion polls have shown that annexation is not a high priority for the vast majority of the Israeli public.
Abandoning its annexation plan changes little on the ground. Israel already holds overall control of the West Bank and continues to expand its settlements there, while granting the Palestinians autonomy in a series of disconnected enclaves. Some 500,000 Israelis now live in the rapidly expanding West Bank settlements.
Next year, Israel will take part in the UAE´s delayed Expo 2020, the world´s fair being hosted by Dubai. A secret synagogue also draws practicing Jews in Dubai. The UAE also has announced plans to build the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, which will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue.
Israelis traveling with Western passports routinely enter the UAE without a problem, though one still can´t make a phone call between the two countries. Israelis also work in Dubai´s gold and diamond trade as well.
Emirati officials also have allowed Israeli officials to visit and the Israeli national anthem was played after an athlete won gold in an Abu Dhabi judo tournament. Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.