That was President Trump’s characterization of the treaty signings at the White House September 15 of the first agreements in more than a quarter of a century between Israel and a pair of tiny Arab Persian Gulf states, the United Arab Republic (UAE) and Bahrain.
The announcement was rolled out for maximum public diplomacy. But will that breakthrough yield more such treaties in the coming days and weeks? The world is poised to watch for successive accords between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the near future.
Main provisions of the accords
The signatories will open embassies and establish economic and other ties in the first such agreements since 1994, when Jordan followed Egypt in recognizing Israel after the devastating 1967 and 1981 Mideast wars. Principal points of the 2020 breakthrough accords:
- The two Arabian peninsula countries, the UAE and Bahrain, and Israel will open embassies and initiate other diplomatic and economic ties.
- They will build frameworks for trade relations and tourism.
- They (and theoretically Israel) will support “a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
According to New York Times correspondent Michael Crowley, the agreement “makes scant reference to the fate of the Palestinians. In remarks to reporters before the ceremony,” Mr. Crowley notes, “Mr. Trump said five other Arab countries could soon take similar steps—and suggested that one was Saudi Arabia, in what analysts say would be a far more dramatic breakthrough.”
Mr. Crowley adds: “Analysts believe Sudan and Oman are likelier candidates for normalization in the short term.” Middle East specialists, Crowley concludes, “say that Bahrain most likely acted only with Riyadh’s blessing, and that the Saudi royals are weighing their own moves.”
ABC News correspondents Jordyn Phelps and Ben Gittleson note: “For all the significance of the September 15 signings, former Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross said they are more symbolic than substantive. He noted that the parties did not sign what he called “full-fledged” peace treaties and that many substantive details still have to be negotiated.
“Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the agreements are the culmination of years of patient diplomacy that date back to the Obama administration but that the Emirates have been in the ‘driver’s seat’ in closing the deal at a moment when both the U.S. and Israel wanted a political victory.
“The Trump administration really wants the deal,” the ABC correspondents add, “because they’re concerned about (U.S. domestic) politics. The Israelis really want the deal. So give them what they want and then continue to negotiate to get more.”
Saudi Arabia’s position on the U.S.-UAE-Bahrain agreement September 15 remains a key to a wider Arab-Israeli agreement on numerous issues. Middle East specialist James Dorsey puts it this way: “Will they or won’t they? Saudi recognition of Israel is the $64,000 question. Odds are: they won’t. But the kingdom, its image tarnished by multiple mis-steps, is seeking to ensure that it is not perceived as ‘the odd man out’ as smaller Gulf states establish diplomatic relations with Israel.”
There it is: the dynamics of diplomacy, which carefully pursued in the troubled Middle East, can advance a developing warming in relations between Israel and a majority of the 22 Arab League states. That would indeed be an occasion for a global celebration.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More