Thursday, November 26, 2020

Israel, Bahrain agree to establish full diplomatic ties

Bahrain and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations, US President Donald Trump announced on Friday, hailing the deal as “a historic breakthrough”.

In a joint statement, the United States, Bahrain and Israel said the agreement was reached after Trump spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Friday.

“This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East,” the statement reads.

The deal comes after Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a similar agreement last month.

Bahrain will join Israel and the UAE for a signing ceremony at the White House on September 15, Trump told reporters on Friday.

“It’s unthinkable that this could happen and so fast,” he said about the Israel-Bahrain deal.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, hailed the agreements as “the culmination of four years of great work” by the Trump administration.

“We’re seeing the beginning of a new Middle East, and the president has really secured alliances and partners in trying to pursue that,” Kushner said.

A history of Arab-Israeli normalisation

In a Hebrew-language statement, Netanyahu said he was “moved” to announce the agreement with Bahrain, which he said “adds to the historic peace with the United Arab Emirates”. 

For its part, Bahrain said on Friday it supports a “fair and comprehensive” peace in the Middle East, the country’s BNA state news agency reported.

That peace should be based on a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, King Hamad said.

‘Treacherous stab’

Palestinian leaders have criticised Arab states for normalising ties with Israel while it continues its military occupation of Palestinian lands, saying such deals threaten to cement the status quo.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said the Bahrain-Israel deal was “another treacherous stab to [the] Palestinian cause”.

Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said Palestinians have unequivocally condemned Friday’s announcement.

Ibrahim said Al Jazeera spoke to a Palestinian official close to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas who said peace between Arab countries and Israel “will not happen without the Palestinian issue being resolved”.

She said the official also said they did not believe Israel’s deals with Bahrain and the UAE would have happened “without regional backing”.

Kushner, speaking to reporters in a call from the White House soon after Friday’s announcement, said the UAE and Bahrain agreements “will help reduce tension in the Muslim world and allow people to separate the Palestinian issue from their own national interests and from their foreign policy, which should be focused on their domestic priorities”.

US election looms

Since coming into office, the Trump administration has pursued staunchly pro-Israel policies, from moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to ordering the PLO to shutter its Washington, DC, office and recognising Israel’s occupation on the Syrian Golan Heights.

The US president and his advisers have championed a so-called “deal of the century” proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and they have courted Arab Gulf states to try to drum up support for that initiative.

Bahrain, for example, hosted a US-led conference in June 2019 to unveil the economic side of the proposal, and Emirati and Saudi leaders voiced support at the time for any economic agreement that would benefit Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders boycotted that summit, however, saying the Trump administration was not an honest broker in any future negotiations with Israel.

Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said while the deals between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE are not high on the list of priorities for most US voters, a large portion of Trump’s supporters are Evangelical Christians who favour his pro-Israel positions.

Halkett said Trump is trying to show them before the November 3 contest that he can get the “deal of the century” done in his second term.

“He’s acting as if this is a framework that will bring about that so-called ‘deal of the century’,” Halkett said, despite the fact that “the president and his administration’s representatives are not even talking to the Palestinians right now”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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