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At historic White House event, UAE and Bahrain to move toward normal ties with Israel

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday will become the latest Arab states to break a longstanding taboo when they sign agreements toward normalizing relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump will host the White House ceremony at noon EDT (1600 GMT), capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.

At the U.S.-brokered ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sign agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.

The deals make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalize ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Tuesday his country’s decision to normalize relations with Israel had “broken the psychological barrier” and was “the way forward” for the region, creating more leverage.

The back-to-back agreements, which have drawn bitter condemnation from the Palestinians, mark an improbable diplomatic victory for Trump. He has spent his presidency forecasting deals on such intractable problems as North Korea’s nuclear program only to find actual achievements elusive.

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

Speaking to Fox News hours before the ceremony, Trump said he expected more Arab countries to normalize tie with Israel and predicted the Palestinians would eventually join as well or else be “left out in the cold.”

Bringing Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together reflects their shared concern about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has been critical of both deals.

“Instead of focusing on past conflicts, people are now focused on creating a vibrant future filled with endless possibilities,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said in a statement late on Monday. Kushner helped negotiate the agreements and is trying to persuade more Gulf countries to strike similar accords with Israel.

One target of White House appeals is Oman, whose leader spoke with Trump last week.

Another is Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power. So far the Saudis, whose king is custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and rules the world’s largest oil exporter, have signaled they are not ready.

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