The UAE and Israel signed a historic accord to normalise relations at the White House on Tuesday, followed by a similar signing by Bahrain, which completed its own peace deal with Israel.
“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history, after decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries,” President Donald Trump said at the start of the signing ceremony on Tuesday.
At the ceremony, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani each signed agreements with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I stand here today to extend a hand of peace and receive a hand of peace … the search for peace is an innate principle yet principles are effectively realised when they are transformed into actions,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East and a change that will send hope around the world.
“The region’s youth are looking forward to taking part in this humanitarian moment … opening opportunities for those who love peace and prosperity and the future,” he said.
“Peace requires courage and shaping the future requires knowledge. The advancement of nations requires sincerity. We came to tell the world this is our approach – peace is our guiding principle. Those who begin things in the right way will reap achievements.
At a meeting with Mr Trump ahead of the US-hosted ceremony to sign accords with Isreal, Sheikh Abdullah said: “Our region has suffered far too long. We want to show our people, the region and the world that there is good news.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was grateful to President Trump. “To all of Isreal’s friends in the Middle East, those who join us today and those who will join us tomorrow, I say ‘as-Salam Alaikum’ peace unto thee, shalom,” he said.
Sheikh Abdullah was the only official speaking the signing ceremony to mention the Palestinian cause and thanked Mr Netanyahu for halting annexation in order to secure the normalisation agreement.
Bahrain’s Mr Al Zayani opened his address at the White House saying it was a “moment of hope and opportunity for all the people of the Middle East, and in particular for the millions in our younger generations.”
He said the agreement will enhance Bahrain’s principles of coexistence and harmony, saying genuine co-operation is the most effective means to peace.
“For too long the Middle East has been set back by conflict and distrust, causing untold destruction and thwarting the potential of generations of our best and brightest young people,” said Mr Al Zayani. “Now I’m convinced we have the opportunity to change that.”
Isreal President Reuven Rivlin described the moment as “historic.” “This is a true example of breaking down borders, and overcoming divisions,” he tweeted ahead of the ceremony. “I hope and pray that this coming year will be a year of breaking down more barriers …, working together to overcome shared challenges and advance mutual understanding, peace and cooperation, in our region and around the world.”
The deals make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalise ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Mr Trump pointed out that in the last 40 years there were just two such agreements and that he had helped broker two more in a single month.
Sheikh Abdullah was joined by a large delegation from Abu Dhabi, including Abdulla Al Marri, Minister of Economy, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Obaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation, Omar Ghobash, UAE Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US, Lana Nusseibeh, UAE Permanent Representative to the UN, and Ali Al Neyadi, Commissioner of Customs and Chairman of the Federal Customs Authority. Representatives from Sudan also attended the ceremony at the White House.