President Donald Trump is set to preside Tuesday over the signing of historic diplomatic deals between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations.
The diplomatic deals could herald a dramatic shift in Middle East power dynamics and give Trump a boost ahead of the November election.
In a White House ceremony aimed at showcasing presidential statesmanship, Trump is hosting more than 700 guests on the South Lawn to witness the sealing of the agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Trump and his allies hope the occasion will burnish Trump’s credentials as a peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign.
“This can lead to peace, real peace, in the Middle East,” Trump said in the Oval Office as he welcomed Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince.
“You can have peace without blood in the sand,” Trump added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers are to ink the deals before the crowd, which will include representatives of supporting nations from the Washington-based diplomatic corps but few other dignitaries from overseas. Some congressional Democrats who have offered muted praise have been invited to attend.
In addition to the individual bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, all three will sign a trilateral document, officials said. The agreements are dubbed the “Abraham Accords” after the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. Trump is expected to sign as a witness.
The agreements won’t end active wars but will rather formalize the normalization of the Jewish state’s already warming relations with the two countries. And, while not addressing the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they may pave the way for a broader Arab-Israeli rapprochement after decades of enmity, a pair of wars and only two previous peace deals.
Skeptics, including many longtime Mideast analysts and former officials, have expressed doubts about the impact of the deals and lamented that they ignore the Palestinians, who have rejected them as a stab in the back by fellow Arabs. Netanyahu has insisted that Israel’s plans to annex West Bank settlements is only suspended and remains on the table.
Yet even the harshest critics have allowed that the agreements could usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit, with implications for Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.
A poll released Tuesday found that 86% of Palestinians believe the normalization agreement with the UAE serves only Israel’s interests and not their own. Fifty-three percent of Palestinians described the agreement as a “betrayal” while 17% said it marked the “abandonment” of their cause.
The poll, carried out by the respected Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, found that 92% of Palestinians are opposed to Trump’s Mideast plan. The poll, carried out Sept. 9-12, surveyed 1,270 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.
Palestinian activists held small demonstrations Tuesday in different parts of the West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.
Trump remains undeterred, telling “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that the Palestinians are “difficult” to deal with. Eventually, he said, “Palestinians will be brought in because all of their supporters, all of the people that give them lots of money are coming into the deal so otherwise they’ll be left out in the cold.”
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