Peace deals close between Israel and five or six other countries

Cheryl Sanders
September 15, 2020

For the first time in more than a quarter-century, a USA president will host a signing ceremony between Israelis and Arabs at the White House, billing it as an "historic breakthrough" in a region long known for its stubborn conflicts.

In Israel, Netanyahu signaled on Monday that the deals with the two Gulf Arab states may still be works in progress.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that "five or six" other Arab countries were also poised to normalise ties with Israel, as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain ink a historic peace deal with Tel Aviv today.

With Trump up for re-election on November 3, the accords could help shore up support among pro-Israel Christian evangelical voters in the USA, an important part of his political base.

A USA official told the Times of Israel the lawn is a "vast" space and participants will be kept as far apart as possible, adding each of the three Middle Eastern countries' delegations are taking the matter seriously.

Taken together, the two agreements bring "a pivot in history", Netanyahu said, standing alongside Trump on the balcony of the White House's Blue Room, addressing a large crowd watching from the South Lawn below. There was no word on whether the Saudis would attend, though their quiet acquiescence to the agreements has been seen as crucial. The agreements come at a hard time for the Israeli PM as he faces criticism at home of his handling of the coronavirus crisis and a corruption trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and describes his trial as a left-wing political witch-hunt aimed at unseating a popular right-wing leader.

The official declined to provide specifics. The pandemic was in the backdrop of the White House ceremony, where there was no social distancing and most guests didn't wear masks. "They want to make a deal".

Some differences remain despite warming ties.

Trump did not name the additional countries, but hinted during separate bilateral talks with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan that Saudi Arabia may be on board without saying so specifically. "I would have no problem in selling them the F-35".

"HISTORIC day for PEACE in the Middle East", tweeted Trump, trumpeting the imminent completion of "landmark deals that no one thought was possible".

"It is also critically important that we fully understand the agreements' details regarding the announced freeze of efforts by Israel to annex portions of the West Bank", she said.

Palestinians view the new agreements as weakening a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries. Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.

Other reports by iNewsToday