Israel, the UAE and Bahrain signed a normalisation agreement yesterday. For its backers, it represents an “historic” moment. But the UAE and Bahrain rulers were noticeable by their absence. For Palestinian Presidents Mahmoud Abbas, there is no peace without an end to occupation. In the background, the two-state solution remains unresolved. Netanyahu has also not disowned his annexation plan.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The signing of the so-called Abraham Accords yesterday in the White House has been hailed as a new era of peace for the Middle East by their supporters.
However, the leaders of the Arab countries that signed it, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, did not want to expose themselves in person, and so sent loyalists to ink the anti-Iranian pact, which is based on a number of economic and military relations between governments that are far from the will and interests of the peoples involved.
Indeed, tensions are already mounting. Palestinian groups, at home and in the United States, took to the streets in protest, whilst rockets were fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, injuring two people.
The signing ceremony took place in the presence of US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Abdullah bin Zayed and Abdullatif al-Zayani.
Without citing names, the US leader said that seven or eight other Arab countries are ready to normalise relations with the Jewish state and establish official diplomatic relations, including some big countries. Others might quickly follow.
The official agreement was signed in the presence of scores of people, not all social distancing, in the South Lawn of the White house where the Oslo Accord was signed in 1993.
For Israel, this represents two more Arab countries after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994: an internationally-binding peace treaty with the UAE, and a Declaration of peace with Bahrain.
Thanks to these agreements, Muslims around the world can now visit historic Islamic sites in Israel and Palestine and pray at the al-Aqsa mosque, the third most important Islamic site after those in Makkah and Madinah.
During the ceremony, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani used the occasion to call for a "two-state solution", noting that “Today is a truly historic occasion," and "A moment for hope and opportunity."
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed stressed that the normalisation of relations with Israel will allow the UAE to better help the Palestinians build their state. He also thanked Israel for "halting the annexation of Palestinian territories”.
For his part, Israeli prime minister said "This day is a pivot of history,” heralding “a new dawn of peace” that could end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.
However, for the Israeli leader, the issue of settlements and the “frozen” annexation project remain ambiguous and nothing in the Accords suggest that Netanyahu is prepared to give up on either.
Meanwhile, whilst the Abraham Accords were being signed in Washington, sirens sounded in southern Israel as rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, injuring two people.
Israel responded immediately with attack helicopters striking a dozen Hamas “terrorist” sites, according to Israeli military sources.
Protests also broke out in Gaza and the West Bank. In Nablus and Hebron demonstrators with Palestinian flags and blue masks rallied against the Accords.
In Gaza, protesters trampled and set fire to pictures of Netanyahu, the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
Shortly after the official ceremony, the President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement calling for respect for the rights of the Palestinian people and warning that "peace, security and stability will not be achieved in the region until the Israeli occupation ends".
A poll released on Tuesday found that most Palestinians believe the normalisation agreement with the UAE does not serve their interests. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research surveyed almost 1,300 Palestinians, finding that 86 per cent believe that only Israel benefits from the deal.
Many Israelis are also concern, most notably about US sales of sophisticated weapons to the UAE and Bahrain, undermining Israel's current military superiority in the region.
Finally, whilst people in the UAR appear indifferent to the Accords, in Bahrain opposition remains strong to the deal.
In an attempt to silence dissent, the Bahrain government o adopted a law banning MPs from making speeches that "criticise the country's interests." For their part, many opposition and pro-Shia groups have announced protests and rallies.