UAE-Israel peace ceremony scheduled in Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan will head their countries’ respective delegations.
Thursday 10/09/2020
The Emirati, Israeli and US flags attached to an air-plane of Israel’s El Al, adorned with the word “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew, upon its arrival at the Abu Dhabi airport in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31.
The Emirati, Israeli and US flags attached to an air-plane of Israel’s El Al, adorned with the word “peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew, upon its arrival at the Abu Dhabi airport in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, on August 31.

WASHINGTON - The UAE and Israel will ink their historic normalisation deal in a White House ceremony on September 15, according to US officials, formalising the Jewish state’s first peace treaty with an Arab country in decades.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, will head their countries’ respective delegations at the event, which will prominently feature in either the White House’s South Lawn, the Rose Garden or inside depending on the weather.

Netanyahu wrote on Twitter that he “was proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House,” as the UAE confirmed Sheikh Abdullah would head to the US capital.

The UAE-Israel deal marks the third peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country, after agreements with Egypt and Jordan. As part of the agreement, Israel agreed to temporarily suspend its planned annexation of some 30% of the West Bank, which Emirati leaders had strongly opposed.

For Abu Dhabi, the agreement paves the way for wide-ranging business and development ties with Israel, including an expected $4 billion trade deal, and potential access to the coveted US-made F-35 aircraft. That is a point of contention with Israel, however, which has publicly pressured the US against selling the sophisticated aircraft to the UAE that it says would jeopardise its military advantage in the region.

Netanyahu reportedly went along with the US’s F-35 military arrangement with the UAE in private in order to secure the normalisation deal, according to a recent report from the New York Times.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that the US would preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge but continue to consider arms sales to the UAE. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said the normalisation deal had increased the UAE’s chances of getting the F-35.

Trump, who is gearing up for a hard-fought election in November, has presented the deal as a major diplomatic achievement of his administration that could herald a new era of peace in the Middle East.

Trump’s administration has been working for years on a long-stalled peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, attempting to leverage its strong ties with Gulf Arab countries to make headway. In May 2019, the US officially presented its “deal of the century” in a conference in Manama, Bahrain, outlining its vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The plan included some concessions to Palestine, such as the creation of an independent state with limited sovereignty in Gaza and the West Bank and a strong development plan, and drew cautious optimism from some Arab states. However, it was widely rejected by Palestinian factions as it afforded Israel the right to annex all its settlements, the Jordan Valley and retain most of East Jerusalem.

Kushner defended the US-drafted plan in a Wednesday press briefing, saying it was a chance to save the two-state solution, and urged the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table before their conditions worsened.

“What we did with our plan was we were trying to save the two-state solution because… if we kept going with the status quo… ultimately, Israel would have eaten up all the land in the West Bank,” Kushner told media.

“Right now, you have a situation where there is land that could become a Palestinian state. It is possible to connect it, but the land that Israeli settlers are in right now is land that Israel controls, and the odds of them ever giving it up is unlikely,” Kushner said, adding that the more time goes by, the more he fears “the situation is just going to get worse and worse” for the Palestinians.

The new diplomatic relationship between the UAE and Israel has spurred other Arab countries to reevaluate their ties with the Jewish state and come to terms with changing power dynamics in the region.

Though Saudi Arabia did not follow the UAE’s move to establish formal links with Israel, it has allowed Emirati flights to Israel to go over its airspace. Riyadh has held that it will not normalise ties with Israel until the Jewish state reaches an internationally-recognised peace deal with the Palestinians that provides for a two-state solution.

A number of other Arab countries, including  Bahrain, Sudan and Oman, are thought to be weighing closer ties with Israel but have not signaled an intent to embark on a normalisation drive soon.