WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements on Tuesday to normalize ties with Israel, becoming the first Arab states in a quarter century to break a longstanding taboo, in a strategic realignment of Middle East countries against Iran.
U.S. President Donald Trump hosted the White House ceremony, capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians.
In front of a crowd of several hundred people on the White House lawn, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed accords with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
The deals, denounced by the Palestinians, make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalize relations since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
Meeting Netanyahu earlier in the Oval Office, Trump said, “We’ll have at least five or six countries coming along very quickly” to forge their own accords with Israel.
Later Trump told reporters a third Gulf Arab state, Saudi Arabia, would strike an agreement with Israel “at the right time.” The Saudi cabinet stressed in a statement the need for a “just and comprehensive solution” to the Palestinian issue.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest Gulf Arab power. Its king is custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and rules the world’s largest oil exporter. Despite its own reluctance, the kingdom’s quiet acquiescence to the agreements was seen as crucial.