History was made today as Israel officially signed normalisation agreements with two Gulf states at the White House: the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is the first agreement between Israel and an Arab country in almost 26 years.
The agreements were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani.
In addition to the bilateral agreements, all three signed the trilateral ‘Abraham Accords’ for peace between the monotheistic faiths, alongside US President Donald Trump, who signed as a witness.
Before the ceremony, PM Netanyahu met President Trump, where the US President said that there are “at least five or six countries” ready to make peace with Israel.
Omani Ambassador to the US Hunaina al-Mughairy was among those attending the ceremony, amid speculation that Oman could be on the verge of normalising relations with the Jewish state. Deputy Ambassador of Sudan was also present; Sudan, like Oman, does not have ties with Israel.
US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers walked out to the White House balcony to applause and a standing ovation at the ceremony.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US President Donald Trump at the ceremony and stated: “To all of Israel’s friends in the Middle East, those who are with us today and those who will join us tomorrow, I say salaam alaikum (peace be upon you”.
He said: “This peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states and ultimately it can end the Arab Israeli conflict once and for all… Let us feel on this day the pulse of history. For long after the pandemic is gone, the peace we make today will endure”.
The UAE’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan said in his speech: “Today, we are already witnessing a change at the heart of the Middle East, a change that will send hope around the world”.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa underlined: “For too long, the Middle East has been set back by conflict and mistrust, causing untold destruction” and dashing hopes of the region’s “youngest and brightest…Now I am convinced we can change that”.
US President Donald Trump said: “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history”, adding that this is the “dawn of a new Middle East”. He also said that the deal opens the doors to Muslims to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.
The historic documents were all signed four times: In English, Hebrew and two in Arabic. The representatives of the four countries (including the US as a witness) signed the deals on the White House South Lawn to huge applause. After the ceremony, there was an official lunch in the White House.
Today’s ceremony, which hosted more than 700 guests on the White House South Lawn, follows years of covert meetings between Israel and officials from the Gulf states.
Israel and the UAE are working to cooperate in a range of fields, including finance, health, culture and tourism, space, science and investment, innovation and trade. Since the Israeli delegation’s visit to Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, the sides have exchanged more than 170 draft agreements.
In late June, two private Israeli companies signed cooperation agreements with two Emirati companies to research and develop technology in the fight against the coronavirus.
The UK Government has welcomed the normalisation agreements. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday, following the announcement that Bahrain would normalise ties with the Jewish state, that “Bahrain and Israel’s decision to normalise relations is extremely welcome news and I hope that others will follow to help secure a more peaceful Middle East”. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Middle East Minister James Cleverly also welcomed the announcement of both agreements.
As the ceremony took place, rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel. Rocket sirens sounded in the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, sending tens of thousands of residents rushing to bomb shelters.
Following the ceremony, the Hamas terror group condemned the UAE and Bahrain for signing peace deals with the “Zionist entity”, Israel.
The normalisation of relations with the UAE and Bahrain follow Israel’s treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.