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Abraham Accords signed in Washington as rockets fired from Gaza

What happened: US President Donald Trump hosted the signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn yesterday where Israel signed a peace treaty with the UAE and a declaration of peace with Bahrain.

  • President Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani all hailed the occasion as an historic breakthrough toward peace in the Middle East.
  • In addition to the bilateral agreements, all three signed a trilateral document, the “Abraham Accords” calling for peace among the monotheistic religions. Trump also signed as a witness. Read the full text here. 
  • In his speech President Trump declared: “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.”
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “This day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have prayed for peace. For decades, the Jewish state has prayed for peace.” Adding, “This is a not a peace between leaders, but a peace among peoples.”
  • Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s de facto ruler and crown prince, thanked Israel for “halting the annexation of Palestinian territories”.
  • Bahrain’s Foreign Minister called the declaration “an historic step on the road to genuine and lasting peace, security and prosperity across the region, and for all who live there, regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity, or ideology.” He added: “A just, comprehensive and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be the foundation – the bedrock – of such peace.”
  • While the ceremony was underway in Washington, Palestinians fired two rockets out of the Gaza Strip. One rocket was intercepted over Ashkelon, but the other one exploded in Ashdod, leaving one Israeli civilian, a 62-year-old man, in hospital in a serious condition. Four people, including a pregnant woman, sustained light injuries.
  • In response, the Israeli Air Force struck ten targets in Gaza, including a weapons and explosives factory and underground infrastructure east of Gaza City.
  • This morning, a barrage of 13 rockets were fired in a 40-minute spell towards communities on the Gaza periphery.  The Iron Dome intercepted eight of the rockets, with Islamic Jihad claiming responsibility.
  • In response to the agreements, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said last night, “The attempts to bypass the Palestinian people and its leadership will have dire consequences, for which Israel and the United States will be responsible.”

Context: The two Gulf countries become third and fourth Arab states to sign treaties with Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

  • The agreement with UAE includes a full diplomatic exchange of embassies and ambassadors as well as cooperation in a variety of spheres, including finance and investment, civil aviation, innovation, trade and economic relations, healthcare, science, technology, and space cooperation for peaceful uses.
  • Despite the Emirati Foreign Minister thanking Israel for stopping annexation, Likud officials have continued to insist it is only a temporary suspension.
  • Significantly, there was no reference in the agreements or the speeches to the Arab Peace Initiative, two-state solution, East Jerusalem, or refugees.
  • Prior to the ceremony President Trump told Fox News he would have “no problem” selling the advanced F-35 fighter jet to the UAE, despite concerns from the Israeli security establishment that it could undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge.
  • Among the 700 guests at the White House ceremony were diplomats from Oman and Sudan, who could be next to normalise ties with Israel.
  • Although there was no hand shaking due to coronavirus, there was disagreement between the Israeli delegation and the White House over the wearing of masks and social distancing at the ceremony, with President Trump’s team keen for everything to appear normal.

Looking forward:  Prior to the ceremony, Netanyahu met Trump in the Oval Office. Trump hinted more agreements could soon follow, declaring, “We’ll have at least five or six countries coming along very quickly.”

  • Netanyahu and the Israeli delegation are returning home this morning, where the prime minister will return to domestic challenges, primarily the further spread of the coronavirus and lockdown later this week. On departure Netanyahu said, “I am now returning to Israel with three missions: First, to fight the coronavirus, second to fight terrorism and third, to continue widening the circle of peace.”
  • The peace treaties will now be ratified by the government and the Knesset.

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