Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and representatives of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates officially opened normal relations Tuesday, signing diplomatic agreements during a White House ceremony that was hosted by President Trump.
“The blessings of the peace we make today will be enormous,” Netanyahu said. “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 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.”
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.
“I stand here today to extend a hand of peace and receive a hand of peace,” said Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of the United Arab Emirates.
With the new agreement, Al Nahyan said, “We are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East — a change that will send hope around the world.”
Also speaking was Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayan, who called it a historic step toward a lasting peace.
“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.”
After a round of speeches, the officials and Trump sat down at a long table to sign three copies of each agreement — including versions in Arabic and Hebrew. That prompted a moment of levity, as Netanyahu and the Arab officials asked one another to point out where they should sign their names.
The Trump administration brokered the deals between the Middle East nations, which had already been cooperating quietly on some security and economic issues.
“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,” Trump said before the signing ceremony.
“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,” the president said.
Opening formal ties between Israel and Arab states has become the focus of the administration’s peace efforts after its years-long effort to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians stalled.
The deals with the countries involve opening embassies and trade between them. Palestinian leaders have repeatedly asked other countries to withhold ties with Israel until Israel and the Palestinians come to a mutual peace agreement.