WASHINGTON – Israel and the two Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed U.S.-brokered agreements at the White House on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a peace treaty with the Emirates and a declaration of peace with Bahrain, which will follow the usual procedure of past international agreements and will be brought for the approval of the government and Knesset.
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The historic signing ceremony was overseen by President Donald Trump, while Netanyahu was joined by the UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayan.
The Israeli delegation does not include any representatives from Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party, though representatives from the Foreign Ministry, headed by senior Kahol Lavan member Gabi Ashkenazi, were responsible for drafting the agreements between the countries.
8:20 A.M. Netanyahu departs Washington, capping two-day visit
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed Washington, D.C. on Wednesday morning, along with the Israeli delegation, his wife Sara and two sons, capping a two day visit in which he signed two U.S.-brokered agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
"I am now returning to Israel with three missions: First to fight the coronavirus, second to fight terrorism and third to continue to expand the circle of peace. I am not surprised that the Palestinian terrorists fired at Israel just at the time of this historic ceremony, they want to turn things around. They will not succeed. We are crippled by all those who try to hurt us and we will extend a hand of peace to all those who reach out with us," said the prime minister moments before boarding the plane.
Netanyahu and the rest of the delegation are expected to land in Israel around 5 P.M. on Wednesday. (Noa Landau)
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1:50 A.M. Netanyahu to meet Pence, Pompeo
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo on Tuesday (early Wednesday in Israel). The meeting will take place separately. (Noa Landau)
1:35 A.M. Abraham Accords Declaration 'pursues vision of peace' in the Middle East
The Abraham Accords Declaration says it recognizes the importance of "maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom." "We pursue a vision of peace, security and prosperity in the Middle East and around the world," it adds. Read the full text here. (Noa Landau)
11:35 P.M. Saudi Arabia says it stands by Palestinians, supports efforts for just solution to issue
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it stands by the Palestinian people and supports all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue, according to a cabinet statement.
"The cabinet notes that the kingdom stands by the Palestinian people and supports all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue that enables the Palestinian people to establish their independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative," the statement said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israel and two Gulf Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signed normalisation agreements at the White House in Washington. (Reuters)
10:46 P.M. Israel-Bahrain declaration of peace promises efforts for 'just resolution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict'
The declaration of peace signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayan, which was obtained by Haaretz, includes a commitment to continue "efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," without going into further detail. Read the full text here. (Noa Landau)
10:05 P.M. Abbas’ office: Only ending occupation can lead to regional security
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ bureau said in a statement that events in Washington on Tuesday will not lead to regional peace as long as the U.S. and Israel do not accept the Palestinian people’s right to establish a state within the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, as well as “a solution to the issue of the refugees” in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194. The statement added that the Palestinian leadership had not authorized anyone to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people instead of the PLO, that the heart of the conflict did not involve the UAE and Bahrain, but rather the Palestinian people, and that “there will be no stability and security in the region without the end of the occupation.” (Haaretz)
9:40 P.M. Benny Gantz hails peace accord as "nothing less than a national holiday"
"The people of Israel pray for peace, pursue peace, seek peace," Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said, following the signing of the accords.
"The signing of the agreement is nothing less than a national holiday," he said. "We have a duty to bring this spirit of reconciliation within us as well," he added.
Benny Gantz has expressed frustration about being kept in the dark by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the deal with the UAE. (Jonathan Lis)
8:35 P.M. Leaders sign declaration of peace ahead of individual agreements
8:26 P.M. Two wounded in rocket attack on southern Israeli towns
Two Israeli men were moderately and lightly wounded in Ashdod after rockets were fired from Gaza. (Almog Ben Zikri)
8:20 P.M. Emirati FM says grateful for 'halting annexation'
8:18 P.M. Few dozens attend Palestinian protest against agreement in Ramallah
The Palestinian public responded tepidly to the call by various groups to demonstrate against Israel’s deals with the UAE and Bahrain on Tuesday, with only a few dozen people participating in what was supposed to be the main event in central Ramallah. “This apathy does not mean the Palestinian public supports the deal,” a Fatah activist in Ramallah told Haaretz. “To the contrary, there is a lot of anger. But there also no faith that demonstrating and rage will bring about any change in policy and influence decision makers.” According to the activist, despite the declaration of a so-called day of rage by Palestinian Authority leaders, there have been no signs that a security escalation is imminent in the West Bank. (Jack Khoury)
8:15 P.M. Rocket sirens blare in southern Israeli cities during peace signing ceremony
According to the Israeli army, rocket sirens sounded off in Ashdod and Ashkelon. Residents reported hearing blasts in the area. (Haaretz)
8:07 P.M. Netanyahu says deal can ultimately end Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all
Speaking after President Trump ahead of the signing, Netanyahu repeated the president's claim that he is "lining up more and more countries" to sign peace agreements with Israel.
The people of Israel well know the price of war," Netanyahu said. "Over the years, when I have 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."
"This peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states, and ultimately it can end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all," Netanyahu added, emphasizing "the great economic benefits of our partnership... [that] will reach every one of our citizens." (Noa Landau)
7:57 P.M. Trump says deal will allow Emirati, Bahraini citizens to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque
7:11 P.M. Trump says 'about 5 different countries' might join peace deal with Israel
The U.S. President also said during a press statement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Oval Office that "I want Iran to be a great country... I'll make a great deal with Iran, they will be very rich," he said, adding this could happen after the U.S. presidential election.
In regards to Israel's objection to the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, Trump said: "We're gonna work it out."
On the topic of peace with the Palestinians, Trump said “We went in the smart door and the Palestinians will absolutely be a member at the right time," and, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname, added that “Even Bibi gets tired of war.” Regarding prospects of Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank, Trump said: "We're not talking about that right now."
Trump also added that "we're talking to the Palestinians, they'll join too."
Meanwhile, when asked, Netanyahu said Israel does not feel isolated in the Middle East. "We're enjoying diplomatic success, the people who feel isolated are the tyrants of Iran." (Noa Landau)
6:53 P.M. Netanyahu arrives at White House for peace deal signing
6:50 P.M. UAE 'delighted and priviliged' to push for peace, top diplomat says
Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said his country is happy to play a role in advancing peace in the Middle East.
"Peace is always something that we should do ... with a lot of excitement and a lot of hope," Abdullah said in a video posted by the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington ahead of a ceremony to normalize ties with Israel.
"The UAE is so delighted and privileged in playing a role for peace not only for us, the UAE, but for the whole region," he added. (DPA)
6:33 P.M. UAE, Bahraini foreign ministers arrive at White House
The United Arab Emirates' Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa. arrived at the White House ahead of the deal's signing. Both men were greeted by President Trump. (Haaretz)
6:30 P.M. Gantz: Netanyahu says he didn’t approve F-35 sale, but it’s the U.S. that decides
Defense Minister Benny Gantz commented on the question of the U.S. selling the F-35 fighter jet to the UAE in light of its agreement in Israel.
“The prime minister said he didn’t approve the sale of F-35 planes to Abu Dhabi. But ultimately, the Americans decide to whom they sell what,” Gantz, who is also the alternate prime minister, says.
U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier Tuesday that he would have no problem selling the F-35 to the UAE, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the public that he had opposed the idea in talks and that the sale was not part of Israel’s deal with the UAE. (Yaniv Kubovich)
5:55 P.M. Six things to watch for at Israel-UAE-Bahrain ceremony
From domestic to pandemic politics, electoral point scoring to weapon sales, what moves are expected to come from normalization? Read the full text here.
5:15 P.M. Israeli expats protest against Netanyahu in Washington
Israel expats living in the U.S. angered by Netanyahu protested against him in Washington ahead of the signing ceremony, saying they support the deal with the UAE but take issue with the prime minister signing it. Protesters said they want to tell the world that the occasion was illegitimate, as the deal was being signed by a prime minister under criminal indictment, endangering Israel’s status as a democracy. Demonstrators also sought to signal to Netanyahu that protests against him and his leadership will follow him abroad. (Haaretz)
4:51 P.M. Oman expected to send representative to White House signing ceremony
Oman is expected to send a representative to Tuesday's White House ceremony where Israel will sign normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, a senior administration official said.
The official said Oman's ambassador to the United States was expected to attend. The development was likely to fuel speculation that Oman could be the next Gulf state to sign a normalization deal with Israel. (Reuters)
3:46 P.M. Trump: No problem in selling F-35s to UAE
Donald Trump said he would have no problem selling F-35 stealth fighter planes to the United Arab Emirated, the U.S. president said live on Fox News.
Questions over whether selling F-35s to the UAE was an integral part of the U.S.-brokered agreement, despite Israeli concerns, have been at the heart of discussions regarding the deal. (Haaretz)
3:20 P.M. Netanyahu forced to get signed approval by foreign minister, shunned for trip
According to a news report on Israel's Channel 12 confirmed by Haaretz, Netanyahu was forced to ask for a power of attorney from Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, after finding out he was not legally able to sign the agreement with the UAE and Bahrain.
The prime minister was informed of the hurdle by the office of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at the very last minute, sources in his entourage say.
In exchange for the power of attorney, Ashkenazi asked that a clause be added stipulating that the agreement must be ratified by the Israeli government before coming into effect.
The foreign minister, a senior member of rival party turned uneasy coalition partner Kahol Lavan, was shunned for the trip, as was his party leader, Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz. (Noa Landau)
3:05 P.M. UAE minister says agreement makes reference to two-state solution
The agreement between the UAE and Israel will mention the two-state solution as part of reference to previous agreements, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a zoom briefing.
The Emirates' decision to normalise ties with Israel has "broken the psychological barrier," Gargash said, adding it was "the way forward" for the region, creating more leverage.
The suspension of the annexation of swathes of the West Bank would stop undermining the two-state solution, Gargash said, adding that the presence of the United States as a mediator of the deal assured him that the suspension would hold.
UAE officials have said that stopping the annexation was its main reason for going towards normalization. (Noa Landau)
2:36 P.M. Senior U.S. official says masks are not mandatory at White House signing ceremony
A senior U.S. official said that although the White House would encourage wearing masks at the Israel-UAE signing ceremony amid the coronavirus pandemic, it won't obligate participants to do so. (Noa Landau)
2:32 P.M. Jerusalem soccer club that never signed an Arab player now in talks with Emirati investors
Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem soccer club is negotiating a possible investment by a group in the United Arab Emirates as the countries move to formalize ties, the Premier League club said on Tuesday.
Talks between the club and Emirati investors come as a surprise, since Beitar Jerusalem never hired an Arab player, due to pressure from its extremist La Familia fan organization.
The club gave no details on the prospective deal or investors, other than to identify them as "entrepreneurs from Abu Dhabi". Club owner Moshe Hogeg will fly to the UAE capital soon to pursue the negotiations, the Beitar statement said. (Reuters and Haaretz Sports Staff)
12:43 P.M. Details of agreements still kept secret
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to sign on Tuesday agreements with two Gulf states in an official ceremony in the White House led by U.S. President Donald Trump, culminating a process of establishing full diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
A source in the Israeli delegation to Washington told correspondents, in response to public criticism over hiding the details of the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, that the two sides had agreed not to reveal all the details before the deal was signed – expected at midday Eastern time, or 7 P.M. Israel time – due to the “sensitivity of the wording.” However, the agreements will be brought to the cabinet and Knesset for ratification before they take effect, said this source. (Noa Landau, Washington)
6:23 A.M. Behind normalization with Israel lie lucrative U.S. arms deals | Analysis
“We’re seeing a … resurgence of the F-16 business,” Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President of Aeronautics Michele Evans said in an interview with Air Force Magazine last week. “We’re up to about 4,600 aircraft delivered and can see possibly getting up to 5,000.”
Evans’ comments are interesting because these days her company is manufacturing some 70 F-16s for Slovakia, Bulgaria and Bahrain, the latter of which is due to sign a peace agreement with Israel on Tuesday. (Hagai Amit)
6 A.M. Big triumph abroad, big failures at home | Analysis
For the second time in his long career, 22 years after he signed the Wye River Memorandum with Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to Washington to achieve a peace agreement with Arab rulers – and this time to establish diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Netanyahu always excelled as a diplomat, and the ceremony on Tuesday in the White House will be one of his greatest achievements. His resounding failure in managing the coronavirus crisis, his criminal trial in three corruption cases and the domestic incitement and lying he has led should not lessen the importance and symbolism of the Israeli flags that will fly over the Israeli embassies in Abu Dhabi and Manama – and the flags of the Gulf states that will fly over Tel Aviv, along with the Saudi Arabian landscape that will be seen by those Israelis flying to the Far East and back. (Aluf Benn)
3:37 A.M. Ceremony fetes ‘Peace of the Knaves’ | Analysis
Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is credited with the famous quote “If you like laws and sausages you never should watch either one being made,” which in all probability is applicable to the agreements about to be signed at the White House between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. For all those seeking to regale in the historic Middle East breakthrough, the less they know about the backroom deals that facilitated the accords, the better. (Chemi Shalev)