Quietly pursued over the past decade or more, long-standing ties between Israel and Gulf states have become public, based on national interests, with speculation that adversarial relations could move into some loose regional alliance system. Building on the historic Joint Agreement signed between Israel and the UAE in August 2020, the Abraham Accords are a framework for normalizing diplomatic relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain; noticeably, they are not based on first resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This agreement defines paths towards establishing embassies, building diplomatic, cultural, and economic ties. Specific areas of common interchange are likely to include cyber-security, trade, artificial intelligence, intelligence sharing, water management, and many other technological fields. Israel and the UAE are common hubs for research and development. Subsequent to the signing of the Abraham Accords, and by the end of 2020, The Sudan and Morocco also recognized Israel’s legitimacy.
Notably, Israel and the Emirates commenced commercial flights between their countries for the first time. The agreement is based on national interests, central to which are common fears against the hegemonic intentions of Turkey, Iran, and, beyond the region, the slow intrusion of Chinese presence in the Middle East. Officials from the three countries who commented on motivations for the agreement noted common concerns for the decade-long Arab state internal convulsions caused by onerous economic decline, exasperating COVID-19 issues, massive displaced populations, and pockets of perennial corruption existing in pandemic proportions.
Departing from past content that unfolded into Arab-Israeli treaties or accords, these agreements did not include a promised Israeli withdrawal from territories to benefit the PLO or the Palestinian Authority. This agreement did not include any mention of the UN or EU resolutions. It did not include any requested preconditions other than an Israeli promise not to annex West Bank lands it aquired in the June 1967 war. Israeli, Arab writers and many analysts have internalized the reality that the Palestinian political leadership continues to be sclerotic, divided, dysfunctional, and highly autocratic. More frequently since the middle of August 2020, scholars and writers have commented vigorously that the “Palestinians Repeat the Same Mistakes,” by once again procrastinating in not entering into some form of negotiations.
This is not new for the PLO. The Yassar Arafat led PLO refused joining peace negotiations when repeatedly squired by the Carter administration forty years ago. . According to an extensive oral interview with US Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, (1977-1985). Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did very little little to persuade the PLO to join negotiations in the 1977-1980 period. Sadat left it to the Americans, and particularly Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski to persuade Arafat to join talks, recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and become part of Carter’s comprehensive peace effort. Sadat knew that Arafat was incapable of accepting Israel. Accordingly, Sadat told his higly disappointed Egyptian foreign ministry advisers at Camp Davdi that he was not going to wait for Arafat or the PLO to spoil the territorial fruits of negotiations with the Israelis—Sinai’s return without settlements. Lewis reminds us that there was more than considerable interest among West Bank Palestinians to engage before and after the September 1978 Camp David negotiations, but “they were under severe pressure from the PLO’s successful propaganda, not to participate in the Palestinian (self-governing) autonomy negotiations.” PLO official Nabil Shaath, during an interview with me in Cairo on October 2, 1988 explained why the PLO did not join the 1978 negotiations—“No matter the faults of Camp David, it gave us an opportunity to have our legitimate rights considered. We were not prepared.” Arafat was not ready. Further irrefutable evidence of PLO and Arafat turning down American overtures in the 1980s is found in detailed oral interviews with high ranking American State Department officials who made repeated efforts to secure Arafat’s and Palestinian engagement in American led negotiations: Wat Clevurius, Morris Draper, John Kelly, David Mack, Tom Pickering, Nick Veliotes, Dick Viets and others.
Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is no longer the obstacle to fostering Middle Eastern state-to-state relationships. With the UAE-Israel-Bahrain agreement to build on, Arab states can more broadly initiate contacts with Israel—not based on ideology or artificial restraint but on enhancing mutual strategic interests. Perhaps a loose alliance system with common objectives could evolve, one where Washington or the EU could play a cementing but not intrusive role, fostering common connections between states in the region. This could be a wise policy consideration for the next US President, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office in January 2021.
Ken Stein, September 27, 2020
September 15, 2020
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Please. Thank you. The First Lady and I are honored to welcome to the White House Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and Mrs. Netanyahu. Thank you so much. Thank you, Sarah. And Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed United Arab Emirates, UAE. Thank you very much. And Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani of Bahrain. Thank you. Thank you very much.
We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East. Thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.
In a few moments, these visionary leaders will sign the first two peace deals between Israel and the Arab state in more than a quarter century. In Israel’s entire history, there have previously been only two such agreements. Now we have achieved two in a single month, and there are more to follow.
Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain will establish embassies, exchange ambassadors, and begin the cooperate — and work together so strongly to cooperate as partners across the broad range of sectors, from tourism to trade, and healthcare to security. They’re going to work together. They are friends.
The Abraham Accords also open the door for Muslims around the world to visit the historic sites in Israel and to peacefully pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.
Together, these agreements will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region — something which nobody thought was possible, certainly not in this day and age; maybe in many decades from now — but one founded on shared interests, mutual respect, and friendship.
To our honored guests from Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain: Congratulations on this outstanding achievement. Congratulations. Fantastic.
I also want to thank Vice President Mike Pence. Thank you, Mike. Great job. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mike, thank you very much. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. Robert, thank you. Mr. Jared Kushner. Jared, thank you very much. Ambassador Brian Hook. Thank you very much, Brian. Thank you. Thank you. And Avi Berkowitz. Avi, thank you very much. I also want to give a very special thanks — he’s been an incredible Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
That’s a very great group of people, great group of patriots. They wanted this to happen so badly. They worked so hard. And again, nobody thought it could happen. And they thought it could happen. They never even doubted it. So I want to thank you all very much. Thank you.
For generations, the people of the Middle East have been held back by old conflicts, hostilities, lies, treacheries. So many things held them back. Actually, lies that the Jews and Arabs were enemies and that Al-Aqsa Mosque was under attack. Constantly, they would say it was under attack.
These lies, passed down from generation to generation, fueled a vicious cycle of terror and violence that spread across the region and all over the world.
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.
The people of the Middle East will no longer allow hatred of Israel to be fomented as an excuse for radicalism or extremism. So important. And they’ll no longer allow the great destiny of their region to be denied.
On my first foreign trip as President, I had the honor of addressing the leaders of more than 54 Arab and Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia.
My message that day was very simple: I urged the nations of the Middle East to set aside their differences, unite against the common enemy of civilization, and work together toward the noble aims of security and prosperity. I offered America’s friendship, I offered America’s help, but I said clearly that the nations of the regions had to decide what kind of a future they wanted for their children, and for their families, and for their nation itself. No one could make that choice for them; they had to do that themselves.
Today, the world sees that they’re choosing cooperation over conflict, friendship over enmity, prosperity over poverty, and hope over despair. They are choosing a future in which Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Jews, and Christians can live together, pray together, and dream together, side by side, in harmony, community, and peace.
Once again, let me congratulate the people of Israel, the people of the United Arab Emirates, and the people of the Kingdom of Bahrain. God bless you all. This is an incredible day for the world. This is a really wonderful and beautiful occasion.
I want to thank all of the members of Congress for being here: senators, congressmen, congresswomen. We just appreciate it so much. Everybody wanted to be here. It’s a very important day for the world. It’s a very important day for peace.
Before the parties sign the Accords, I’d like to ask Prime Minister Netanyahu to say a few words, followed by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and the Foreign Minister of Bahrain.
Thank you very much. It’s a great honor. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Our dear friend President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, thank you for hosting me, my wife Sarah, and our entire delegation on this historic day. I want to recognize Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, National Security Advisor O’Brien, and other Cabinet members; Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz, Ambassador Friedman, and other members of the President’s able peace team; senators, members of Congress; Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, his Emirate and Bahraini counterparts; as well as all the dignitaries gathered here on this sunny day.
I want to also express my gratitude for all the Israelis who have worked for years, sometimes in less sunny climes, to bring this date. And I thank each and every one of you. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President, this day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have prayed for peace. For decades, the Jewish State has prayed for peace. And this is why, today, we’re filled with such profound gratitude.
I am grateful to you, President Trump, for your decisive leadership. You have unequivocally stood by Israel’s side. You have boldly confronted the tyrants of Tehran. You’ve proposed a realistic vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And you have successfully brokered the historic peace that we are signing today — a peace that has broad support in Israel, in America, the Middle East, indeed in the entire world.
I am grateful to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, of the United Arab Emirates, and to you, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed. I thank you both for your wise leadership and for working with the United States and Israel to expand the circle of peace. I am grateful I am grateful to King Hamad of Bahrain, and to you, Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, for joining us joining us in bringing hope to all the children of Abraham.
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: As-salamu alaykum. Peace unto thee. Shalom.
And you’ve heard from the President that he is already lining up more and more countries. This is unimaginable a few years ago. But with resolve, determination, a fresh look at the way peace is done, this is being achieved. Thank you, Mr. President.
Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel well know the price of war. I know the price of war. I was wounded in battle. A fellow soldier, a very close friend of mine, died in my arms. My brother, Yoni, lost his life while leading his soldiers to rescue hostages held by terrorists at Entebbe.
My parents grieve over the loss of Yoni; was unrelieved until their dying day. And over the years, when I’ve come to console the families of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, I have seen that same grief countless times. And this is why I am so deeply moved to be here today, for those who bear the wounds of war cherish the blessings of peace.
And the blessings of the peace we make today will be enormous. First, because this peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states. And, ultimately, it can end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.
Second, because the great economic benefits of our partnership will be felt throughout our region, and they will reach every one of our citizens.
And third, because this is not only a peace between leaders, it’s a peace between peoples. Israelis, Emiratis, and Bahrainis are already embracing one another. We are eager to invest in a future of partnership, prosperity, and peace. We’ve already begun to cooperate on combating corona, and I am sure that, together, we can find solutions to many of the problems that afflict our region and beyond.
So despite the many challenges and hardships that we all face, despite all that, let us pause for a moment to appreciate this remarkable day. Let us rise above any political divide. Let us put all cynicism aside. Let us feel, on this day, the pulse of history, for long after the pandemic is gone, the peace we make today will endure.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have devoted my life to securing Israel’s place among the nations to ensure the future of the one and only Jewish State. To accomplish that goal, I work to make Israel strong — very strong — for history has taught us that strength brings security, strength brings allies, and ultimately — and this is something President Trump has said again and again — ultimately, strength brings peace.
King David expressed this basic truth thousands of years ago in our eternal capital of Jerusalem. His prayer immortalized in the Book of Psalms in the Bible echoes from our glorious past and guides us towards a brilliant future.
Adonai oz le’amo yiten; Adonai yevarekh et-amo va’shalom. May God give strength to His people. May God bless His people with peace.
Mr. President, distinguished guests, this week is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. And what a blessing we bring to this New Year — a blessing of friendship, a blessing of hope, a blessing of peace. Thank you.
MINISTER BIN ZAYED: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, and my friend, Abdullatif Zayani, distinguished guests: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
Let me start by conveying the best regards of the UAE people and the leadership, and especially of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, to you, Mr. President, and everyone gathered here today.
I’ll continue my speech in Arabic, and I’m sure there will be translation to that.
(As interpreted.) I stand here today to extend a hand of peace and receive a hand of peace. In our faith, we say, “O God, you are peace, and from you, comes peace.” The search for peace is an innate principle, yet, principles are effectively realized when they are transformed into action.
Today, we are ready — we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East, a change that will send hope around the world.
This — this initiative would not have been possible without the efforts of His Excellency President Donald Trump, and his team, who worked hard and sincerely for us all to reach here. Most notably, my counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States; and all those who are genuine about the principle of peace in the United States, who have strived to realize this major achievement. Thank you.
Your Excellency Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, thank you for choosing peace and for halting the annexation of Palestinian territories, a decision that reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing today, a new trend that will create a better path for the Middle East. This peace accord, which is a historic achievement for the United States of America, the State of Israel, and the United Arab Emirates will continue to have a positive impact, as we believe that its reverberations will be reflected on the entire region.
Every option other than peace would signify destruction, poverty, and human suffering. This new vision — which is beginning to take shape as we meet today for the future of the region, full of youthful energy — is not a slogan that we raise for political gain, as everyone looks forward to creating a more stable, prosperous, and secure future.
At a time when science is prevailing, the region’s youth are looking forward to taking part in this great humanitarian movement. We are pleased that the United Arab Emirates will be part of the momentum towards stability and the growth of human potential in a new, civilized approach that opens wide the doors of opportunity for those who look forward towards peace, prosperity, and the future.
Our societies today possess the foundation of modern human development, such as infrastructure, a solid economy, and scientific achievements that will enable them to advance the future of the Middle East.
The United Arab Emirates believes that the role of the United States in the Middle East is positive. And this belief is evidenced by the accord that we are signing today at the White House, for which you have taken the lead and will remain a beacon in human history for all peace-loving people around the world.
And as for us in the United Arab Emirates, this accord will enable us to continue to stand by the Palestinian people and realize their hopes for an independent state within a stable and prosperous region. This accord builds upon previous peace agreements signed by Arab nations with the State of Israel. The aim of all these treaties is to work towards stability and sustainable development.
In this difficult year, when the world is suffering from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, my country, the United Arab Emirates, has reinforced its humanitarian commitments established by our nation’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed, who taught us that standing with others, regardless of the religious or ethnic affiliation, is a humanitarian duty and a firm principle.
During this difficult time, the United Arab Emirates, my country, was able to launch the probe — a probe to Mars. The Hope Probe indeed represents hope that our region is capable of advancement and progress if governments and people embrace science. After the United Arab Emirates sent astronaut Hazza al-Mansoori, last year, as the first Arab astronaut to reach the International Space Station and launched a peaceful nuclear power plant, this accord opened up prospects for a comprehensive peace in the region.
Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.
MINISTER BIN ZAYED: (As interpreted.) Ladies and gentlemen, peace requires courage, and shaping the future requires knowledge. The advancement of nations requires sincerity and persistence. We have come today to tell the world that this is our approach and that peace is our guiding principle.
Those who begin things in the right way will reap bright achievements with the grace of God. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Fantastic.
MINISTER BIN ZAYED: With grace of God, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Great job.
MINISTER AL ZAYANI: Mr. President, the First Lady, Prime Minister, your Highness, ladies and gentlemen: Good afternoon. Today — today is a truly historic occasion, a moment of hope and opportunity for all the peoples of the Middle East and, in particular, for the millions in our younger generations.
The declaration supporting peace between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel is an historic step on the road to genuine and lasting peace, security and prosperity across the region, and for all who live there regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity, or ideology.
For too long, the Middle East has been set back by conflict and mistrust, causing untold destruction and thwarting the potential of generations of our best and brightest young people.
Now I’m convinced we have the opportunity to change that.
Today’s declaration was made possible by the vision, courage, and commitment of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who, supported by supported by the people of Bahrain, has protected, institutionalized, and enhanced Bahrain’s centuries-old spirit of coexistence and harmony, and has the wisdom to recognize that genuine cooperation is the most effective means to achieve peace and to safeguard legitimate rights.
Thank you, Your Majesty, for this vision of peace for the region based on trust, respect, and understanding between all faiths, races, and nations.
To our brothers in the United Arab Emirates: I congratulate you on your own momentous peace accord being signed today with Israel. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, has shown great leadership and foresight to make peace possible and secure a brighter future for our region.
For the State of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu: We welcome and appreciate these steps from you and your government, recognizing that enduring peace and security is only possible through a genuine engagement that protects the rights and interests of countries and peoples in the region.
In particular, I want to express my deep appreciation to President Donald Trump and his administration. Mr. President, your statesmanship and tireless efforts have brought us here today and made peace a reality.
And to Secretary Pompeo, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Special Representative Avi Berkowitz, who have and others — many others — who have carried out their mandates with dedication and skill.
Ladies and gentlemen, today’s agreement is an important first step, and it is now incumbent on us to work urgently and actively to bring about the lasting peace and security our peoples deserve. A just, comprehensive, and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be the foundation, the bedrock of such peace.
We have shown today we have shown today that such a path is possible, even realistic. What was only dreamed of a few years ago is now achievable, and we can see before us a golden opportunity for peace, security, and prosperity for our region.
Let us together, and with our international partners, waste no time in seizing it. Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good. Very good.
MINISTER AL ZAYANI: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s a great job.
MINISTER AL ZAYANI: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Beautiful.
MINISTER AL ZAYANI: Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, and His Highness the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates will sign a treaty of peace, diplomatic relations, and full normalization. They will each sign three copies: one in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.
(The documents are signed.)
ANNOUNCER: The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, and the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain will now sign the declaration of peace. They will each sign three copies: one in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.
(The documents are signed.)
ANNOUNCER: The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, His Highness the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, and the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain will now sign Abraham Accords. They will each sign four copies: one in English, one in Hebrew, and two in Arabic.