US President Donald Trump has welcomed “a new Middle East dawn” amid Israel’s historic deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
Mr. Trump said the two Gulf states signed agreements fully normalizing their relations with Israel.
Mr. Trump described the deal as historic for the three countries whose administration helped him broker it.
The Gulf states are the third and fourth Arab countries to recognize Israel since its establishment in 1948.
Mr. Trump hopes that other countries will follow suit, but Palestinians have urged him that their conflict not remain unresolved.
For decades, most Arab states have boycotted Israel, insisting that they only establish relations after Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians.
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“After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Mr. Trump told a crowd of hundreds at the White House on Tuesday.
He said, “We are here this afternoon to change history.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the deals, saying, “This day is the axis of history; it is a new dawn of peace.”
But Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said only Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories could bring peace to the Middle East.
According to the news agency AFP report, a statement after the signing of the deals said, “Peace, security and stability in the region will not be achieved until the Israeli occupation is over.”
The Israeli military said two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel while the ceremony was going on.
Why are these agreements termed as ‘historical’?
Before the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the only other Arab countries in the Middle East to officially recognize Israel were Egypt and Jordan, who signed peace treaties in 1978 and 1994, respectively.
Mauritania, a member of the Arab League in North-West Africa, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999, but severed ties in 2010.
All eyes will be on whether other countries in the region follow suit, over Saudi Arabia. So far, the Saudis have indicated that they are not ready.
The agreement is expected to initiate new security ties in an area where many Arab states in the Gulf share a common adversary in Iran with Israel.
A significant achievement
Analysis by Gary O’Dongue, Washington correspondent
These agreements represent the most important diplomatic achievement of the Trump administration.
Convincing the two Arab states to engage in such a relationship with Israel without resolving the Palestinian question – an important step for pan-Arab unity.
The specific details of the agreements are not yet public, but will include the opening of embassies, commercial deals and travel links between countries.
Mr Trump had also suggested to five other Arab states that they are “down the road” to finalize a similar arrangement.
But the agreement has been condemned by the Palestinian leadership as a “black day” for the region. Development on the land in the occupied West Bank and Gaza may still derail these new relationships.
Why do Palestinians condemn the deals?
Palestinians have said that the agreements are dangerous betrayals.
They believe that the move by the Gulf countries promises Arab states not to accept relations with Israel until the Palestinian state is achieved.
The UAE has said that progress on the Palestinian state is central, and their agreement included a promise to “suspend” Israel from its controversial plan to annex key parts of the occupied West Bank, called the Middle East Peace Plan Under was allocated by President Trump. They unveiled in January.
The Palestinians dismissed Mr. Trump’s proposals as Israeli biased and warned that the annexation would destroy their hopes of a viable future independent state and would violate international law – a stance supported by the international community.
The UAE’s Minister of State for External Affairs told the BBC it felt an “opportunity” when Mr Netanyahu indicated that he would go ahead with the contract earlier this year.
“Everyone was concerned about the destruction of Palestinian land, which was actually a threat to the viability of the two-state solution,” said Anwar Gargash.
“And I think our plans like this came forward and gave us a reason, a clear reason and a clear rationale, as to why we should make a decision in 2021 or 2022.”
Mr Gargash said he did not believe that Mr Netanyahu or any other Israeli leader was likely to re-assert the promise to suspend involuntary schemes.
The UAE has used this moment from the Palestinian leadership to reorganize its approach and prepare it to re-engage in productive discussions with Israel.
In a statement issued after attending the ceremony at the White House, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the deals were “a massive and welcome opportunity to revive the region’s politics”.
He said he understood the Palestinian objections but “over time, the Palestinian people will understand that it is only by a fundamentally changing strategy that legitimate aspirations for a viable Palestinian state can be realized”.
What is the background?
These diplomatic moves have the backdrop of regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The decades-old quarrel between them has increased due to religious differences. They each follow one of the two main branches of Islam – Iran is largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the dominant Sunni Muslim power.
The UAE and Bahrain are both Saudi allies.
Saudi Arabia’s response will be closely watched. There is no indication yet that it is set to follow Bahrain and the UAE.
Last month saw the first official flight from Israel to the UAE, which was seen as a major step in normalizing relations.
President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who was on the plane, described the UAE deal as having “the ability to change the entire course of the Middle East”.