US President Donald Trump will host a ceremony Tuesday where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalize relations with Israel, redrawing the Middle East’s diplomatic map – and boosting the Republican’s reelection hopes.
The event on the White House South Lawn, attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE, will be the first time Arab nations have established relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
“All sides are excited,” a senior Trump administration official told reporters.
Hundreds of people are invited to attend and a symbolic handshake between the Arab representatives and Netanyahu is not ruled out, the official said.
“Coronavirus (is) in the background of everybody’s minds, although everybody will have been tested,” he said. So “if they are to engage in any sort of physical contact that will be understood.”
For the Mideast, the deals dubbed the Abraham Accords mark a distinct shift in a decades-old status quo where Arab countries have tried to maintain unity against Israel over its treatment of the stateless Palestinians.
Feeling increasingly abandoned, Palestinian leaders on Sunday urged demonstrations in the occupied territories and outside embassies of the United States, Israel, Bahrain and the UAE to protest what they called “shameful agreements.”
But other, powerful forces are transforming the playing field in the region.
– Something for everybody -All the four countries celebrating at the White House share a common hostility to Iran, which Trump has put under crippling economic and diplomatic pressure.
The thaw will also give Israel and its two new Arab partners a big economic opening, just when they are looking to rebuild after the international slowdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump will enjoy the optics of presiding over a historic breakthrough less than 50 days before election day, which opinion polls show he is currently on course to lose.
After an often bruising, chaotic first term on the diplomatic front, Tuesday’s event is seen as a rare piece of good news that even some Democratic critics have applauded.
Netanyahu, a close Trump ally who faces a corruption trial and criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, could also use a dose of good news coverage.