“Normalization within the Middle East”, marking a “new dawn” for the region, as preached by the US, happened through the signature of the treaties – the Abraham Accords – between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
The harshly criticized agreements, brokered by the US and announced on August 13th for UAE and on September 11th for Bahrain, have officially been signed at the White House, with the presence of the representatives of the three countries: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
US President Donald Trump had announced minutes before Tuesday’s ceremony that five or six Arab countries will soon ink similar deals with Israel. “These agreements prove that the nations of the region are breaking free from the failed approaches of the past. Today’s signing sets history on a new course, and there will be other countries very, very soon that will follow these great leaders,” he said, not actually naming the countries.
Therefore, in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony, there was also a Sudanese diplomatic delegation, while Oman’s ambassador to the United States was also present at the event.
Meanwhile, former US peace envoy Dennis Ross predicted that other Arab countries will follow the example of the UAE and Bahrain. He said that Sudan, Oman, and Morocco were probably next to sign accords with Israel.
Previously last week, Sudan’s ambassador to the US, Noureldin Satti, told Newsweek that his government will support any deal that brings peace to the region, though stressed normalisation with Israel is not a fait accompli. “The Sudanese government has not pronounced itself formally on the Israel-UAE deal,” he explained. “As a peacemaker, I believe that whatever is good for peace is good for the region. The region needs peace more than anything else, but peace has to be inclusive and all-embracing.”
Reactions of the leaders present at the signature
“This day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. “You heard from the president that he is already lining up more and more countries. This was unimaginable a few years ago.”
“A Palestinian state has been referenced in the US-brokered Abraham Accord signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday”, said Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under pressure from the Israeli right-wing not to do anything that would cement recognition of a Palestinian state, Gargash clarified that the document briefly mentions a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although it deals largely with the bilateral relations between Israel and the UAE.
As such, the accord’s preamble emphasizes a “basic stance” regarding the Palestinians, he said. It speaks of a two-state resolution to the conflict by referencing previously signed agreements, Gargash stated.
With regard to Israeli plans to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, Gargash added, the “commitment of the suspension of annexation was very clear to me”. Also, the presence of the US as the mediator and interlocutor of this deal assures me that the suspension is real and long lasting.
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that echoed Gargash’s words on Palestinian statehood and annexation. “The extent of ties between Israel and the UAE will be connected to moves toward establishing a Palestinian state”, bin Zayed said.
He also wrote that the agreement with Israel “stopped annexation,” and called on the Palestinian leadership to “use this moment to reorganize its approach and prepare to re-engage in productive discussions.”
Reactions to the deals’ signature
However, back in the disputed lands, the situation was far from peaceful in speeches and on the ground.
Palestinian presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Tuesday that the peace agreements that Arab countries are striking with Israel will not bring peace and security to the region. “Whoever wants peace must seek out (Palestinian) President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership,” he declared. Also, Abu Rudeineh confirmed that the Palestinian leadership and leaders of various factions were holding constant consultations in order to take political steps and actions on the ground. The upcoming steps “will be based on the unity of the Palestinian stance,” he added, stressing that they oppose the normalization and will thwart the United States’ so-called Deal of the Century peace plan for the region. “We will not allow anyone to speak on behalf of our people,” he told local radio. “Our actions will seek to preserve national principles and we will cooperate with the free people of the world and Arab nation,” he continued.
On Tuesday, Palestinians took to the streets of the West Bank, expressing their rejection of the deals.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem responded to the normalization deals shortly after several rockets were fired from Gaza to southern Israel, saying that “the normalization agreements between the UAE and Bahrain with the Zionist entity are not worth the ink with which they were written – and our people, with their insistence on the struggle until the full recovery of their rights, will deal with these agreements as if they were non-existent,” according to Palestinian media.
“A question to the United States of America, Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE: Will the signing of the normalization agreement at the White House now prevent these missiles from leaving Gaza tonight to Israel?” asked senior Fatah official Monir al-Jaghoub in response to the deals and rocket fire. “Peace begins in Palestine and war begins in Palestine.”
Head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Zvi Hauser responded to the rocket fire on Twitter, writing: “Let us emphasize again: Gaza must be demilitarized from missiles. This is the required achievement.”
The Israeli military struck Hamas militant sites in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday in response to rocket fire towards Israel the previous night that coincided with the signing of the agreements between Israel and two Arab countries at the White House. Upon his departure back from Washington (even though entire Israel is in lockdown due to the recently imposed national quarantine), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was not surprised by the rocket attack or the timing of the militants. “They want to take peace backward but they won’t succeed,” he said. “We will strike hard against all those who seek to harm us and reach out a hand in peace to all those whose hand is reached out to peace with us.”
Hamas and Israel reached ceasefire understandings at the end of August after weeks during which rockets were fired and incendiary and explosive balloons were launched at southern Israel, sparking dozens of fires.