Declaring “the dawn of a new Middle East,” President Donald Trump on Tuesday presided over the signing of historic diplomatic pacts between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations that he hopes will lead to a new order in the Middle East.
Hundreds of people amassed on the sun-washed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of the Jewish state’s relations with the two Arab nations in line with their common opposition to Iran and its aggression in the region.
“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn.
“After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.”
Supporters believe the agreements could pave the way for broader Arab-Israeli relations after decades of enmity and only two previous peace deals.
And even the harshest critics have allowed that the deals could usher in a major shift in the region, with implications for Iran, Syria and Lebanon.
Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.
“We are very down the road with about five different countries,” Trump told reporters before the ceremony.
In addition to the bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, all three are signing a document dubbed the “Abraham Accords” after the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions.
“This day is a pivot of history,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “It heralds a new dawn of peace.”
“Despite the many challenges and hardships that we all face — despite all that, let us pause a moment to appreciate this remarkable day.”
Palestinian activists held small demonstrations Tuesday in the West Bank and Gaza in which they trampled and set fire to pictures of Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.
Bahrain’s largest Shiite-dominated opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which the government ordered dissolved in 2016 amid a years-long crackdown on dissent, said in a statement that it rejects the agreement to normalize ties with the “Zionist entity.”
The ceremony follows months of intricate diplomacy headed by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the president’s envoy for international negotiations, Avi Berkowitz.
On Aug. 13, the Israel-UAE deal was announced. That was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, and then the Sept. 11 announcement of the Bahrain-Israel agreement.
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