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September 15, 2020 4:28 pm

‘Pivot of History’ in Middle East Heralded at Israel-UAE-Bahrain Signing Ceremony

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

The Israel-UAE-Bahrain normalization agreements signing ceremony, on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, DC, Sept. 15. 2020. Photo: Barney Breen-Portnoy.

On a pristine late summer day in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, leaders from three Middle Eastern nations gathered on the White House’s South Lawn to herald what was called a “pivot of history” in the region.

In an address ahead of the signing of normalization agreements by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the host of Tuesday’s event — US President Donald Trump — remarked, “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.”

Trump was followed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who expressed similar sentiments.

“For thousands of years, the Jewish people have prayed for peace,” he recalled. “For decades, the Jewish state has prayed for peace. And this is why today we’re filled with such profound gratitude.”

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Netanyahu declared, “To all of Israel’s friends in the Middle East, those who are with us today and those who will join us tomorrow, I say, ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ peace unto you. Shalom.”

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan was next to speak, saying, “We are witnessing today a new trend that will create a better path for the Middle East.”

He characterized the agreement with Israel as a “historic achievement” that would “continue to have a positive impact, as we believe that its reverberations will be reflected on the entire region.”

Al Nahyan also sent a small murmur through the crowd of dignitaries attending the signing ceremony when he addressed Netanyahu directly about one of the deal’s conditions that the Israeli leader has publicly downplayed.

The UAE foreign minister thanked Netanyahu for “halting the annexation of the Palestinian territories, a decision that reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come.”

As Al Nahyan spoke, Hamas fired a volley of rockets from the Gaza Strip deep into southern Israel — a reminder of the precarious current reality in the Middle East.

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani was the last to deliver a speech before the participants descended the stairs from the portico where they were standing and sat down at a table to sign the agreements.

“Today is a truly historic occasion,” he stated. “A moment of hope and opportunity for all the peoples of the Middle East, and in particular for the millions in our younger generations.”

Al Zayani described the deal with Israel as an “important first step,” adding that it was now “incumbent on us to work urgently and actively to bring about the lasting peace and security our peoples deserve.”

“A just, comprehensive and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be the foundation — the bedrock — of such peace,” he noted.

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