What happened: US officials have confirmed that the signing ceremony for Israeli-UAE normalisation will be held in the White House next Tuesday, 15 September.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will lead the Israeli delegation. Last night he said: “I am proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House on the establishment of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”
- The Emirati delegation will he led by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.
- Yesterday Prime Minister Netanyahu met the Chad Cabinet Chairman Abdelkerim Deby and head of the Chad intelligence service Ahmed Kogri in Jerusalem. They discussed the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem as well as strengthening bilateral cooperation in a range of areas, including counterterrorism, cyber, water and agriculture. Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting, “I mentioned our relations in the discussions about beginning peace with the Emirates. I mention it and I want to do more than mention it. I want to be able to advance it even further.”
- The European Union has warned Serbia and Kosovo that they could undermine their EU membership hopes by moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem. European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said: “There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem. Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret.
Context: The signing ceremony in Washington will be the first agreement between Israel and an Arab country in 26 years.
- Following years of covert meetings, this will be the first time that an Israeli prime minister will meet publicly with a cabinet minister from the UAE.
- The agreement to normalise relations will be defined as a peace treaty. As opposed to the ‘cold peace’ with Egypt and Jordan, the sides are working to cooperate in range of fields, including finances, health, culture and tourism, space, science and investments, innovation and trade.
- One of the drivers towards an agreement is Israel’s and the UAE’s shared concerns over the Iranian nuclear programme. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Pompeo said: “Iran’s uranium stockpile is reportedly more than 10 times the limit set by the JCPOA. The E3 and other nations must wake up to the reality that the nuclear deal is history and should join us in imposing strong sanctions. Pressure and comprehensive talks are the only path forward.”
- There is continued speculation that other Arab or Muslim countries could follow suit but are unlikely to be announced before the ceremony. However, the White House is expected to invite ambassadors from several Arab countries, including some that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, as a sign they support the agreement.
Looking ahead: Later today the Arab League will convene in Cairo to discuss the deal.
- According to Reuters a draft resolution presented by the Palestinians does not include a call to condemn, or act against the Emirates. The draft resolution says: “The [normalisation] announcement doesn’t change the principal Arab vision based on the fact that the two-state solution on the 1967 borders is the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East.” The tone is significantly different from Palestinian criticism when the agreement was announced last month. Palestinian officials had called the agreement a “betrayal” and a “stab in the back of the Palestinian cause.”
- On 22 September, a senior delegation of UAE officials is expected to visit Israel. The Emirati delegation will include diplomats and professional representatives from the economic, scientific, cultural and tourism sectors.
- By mid-October, Israeli charter company Israir is expected to begin to offer flights to and from Abu Dhabi. Daily commercial flights by two Emirati airlines are expected to become available even earlier.