Israel-UAE agreement to be signed Tuesday at White House

It had previously been unclear if the agreement to be signed will be normalization or peace, since Israel and the UAE had not previously been at war.

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag waves alongside an Israeli flag (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRISTOPHER PIKE)
A United Arab Emirates (UAE) flag waves alongside an Israeli flag
The historic deal Israel and the United Arab Emirates will sign on Tuesday at the White House will be a peace treaty, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, upgrading the event from a formal recognition of ties with two Gulf states, including Bahrain.
It had previously been unclear if the agreement to be signed will be normalization or peace, since Israel and the UAE had not previously been at war.
“We worked on it for many years,” Netanyahu said. “This is a tremendous turning point in the history of Israel and the Middle East. It will have a great and positive influence on all citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu promised that more countries are on the way, as well.
At the same time, the prime minister said that he “does not forget for a minute that these are difficult days for all of us,” in light of Friday’s planned lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. Netanyahu noted that he spoke with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Finance Minister Israel Katz from Washington.
Israel will be signing two separate documents – one, the peace treaty with the UAE, and the other, a declaration of intent to make peace with Bahrain – because there was not enough time to draw up a full agreement since Friday when ties were announced.
The four sides involved agreed not to make any parts of the agreements public before the signings, but a source from the prime minister’s delegation said they will discuss cooperation between the countries.
The signing ceremony is expected to take place on the White House South Lawn, and 1,000 people were invited. Among the invitees are casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of both Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs director Dore Gold, who as director-general of the Foreign Ministry opened an Israeli mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto will be the only EU diplomatic leader to attend the signing ceremony.
Israel has sought to have its delegation stand at a distance from the rest so that its members will not have to be quarantined due to coronavirus restrictions upon their return to Israel.
Netanyahu is expected to meet with Trump in the Oval Office before the signing, and their wives will have a separate meeting.
Much of the specific areas of cooperation between Israel and the UAE that Israeli officials discussed with their Emirati counterparts in Abu Dhabi, led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat two weeks ago, are still under negotiation and will not be in the agreement on Tuesday.
The peace treaty with the UAE will have to be brought to a vote in the cabinet and then the Knesset after Netanyahu signs it, which is the same process as past peace agreements. The treaty will say it only goes into effect after the cabinet’s authorization.
The UAE and Bahrain will be the third and fourth Arab countries to make peace with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan.
As for the Palestinians, the source in the prime minister’s delegation said, “The diplomatic fruits will come later.”
He would not specify if suspending Israeli extension of sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria or freezing Israeli construction in those areas would be part of the agreement.
Meretz Party leader Nitzan Horowitz said he heard from “authorized sources” that Israel had agreed to freeze construction in the settlements as part of the peace agreements.
In response, a source in the delegation said: “Horowitz’s sources as a politician are worse than when he was a journalist.”
UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy told CNN the “historic” deal with Israel “is an indication that we are keen on a new narrative of hope and prosperity where you have dialogue and debate.”
As it moves forward with the deal, the UAE is keeping “the Palestinian cause front and center,” including “their right to statehood and their right for a dignified life,” she said.
Israel’s agreement for “the suspension of annexation is an important component here,” Hashimy said.
The UAE believes that with its focus on religious tolerance and coexistence between Muslims, Christians and Jews, it has an important role to play in shaping the dialogue in the Middle East, she said.
“We have a different kind of vision for the Arab world and a different kind of vision for the Middle East, which is a region of primarily young people who do not want to carry the baggage of the past and want to forge a new future,” Hashimy said.
This future would focus on science, innovation, prosperity, trade and investments, she said. The UAE wants to advance cooperation with Israel particularly in research areas regarding COVID-19 and artificial intelligence, she added.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with his Bahraini counterpart, Lt.-Gen. Abdulla bin Hassan Al-Nuaimi, and discussed the importance to regional stability of the accords and normalization with Israel and opportunities for a close defense partnership.
Gantz offered to host Nuaimi on an official visit to Israel.
Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis spoke with Bahrain Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed Bin Rashid Al-Zayani about joint cooperation and agreed to a face-to-face meeting in the future.
The Israeli and Bahraini ministers said they would seek to advance the principle of “peace to prosperity” between the two countries, echoing a Trump administration slogan about the Middle East. They spoke about their hope that continued normalization efforts in the region would benefit all citizens.
Bahrain chose to normalize ties with Israel now because “they very much like President Trump [and] don’t know what will happen [in the presidential election] on November 3,” Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi told Army Radio. “They worry a Democratic regime will again arise that will abandon them to [Iran].”
The source in the prime minister’s delegation waved off Hanegbi’s comments, saying ties between Israel and Gulf states have been warming for years.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted: “Minister Hanegbi doesn’t represent the opinion of the State of Israel about Joe Biden or the Democratic Party. I’m sure Prime Minister Netanyahu will clarify and condemn this careless and damaging statement.”
Netanyahu does not have any meetings planned with Democratic presidential candidate Biden, who is based in Delaware, during this visit. The prime minister is staying at Blair House, the White House guest house, and does not plan to leave except to go to the White House due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
When asked whether Netanyahu should have postponed his trip due to the coronavirus crisis and Israel going into a second lockdown on Friday, Hanegbi said: “No way. War and peace are hard to postpone. There are moments that you embrace lest you be left with regrets.”•