Bahrain is establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel, US President Donald Trump announced Friday, making it the second Gulf country to do so in less than a month.
A joint statement released by the White House said Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Salman al-Khalifa spoke earlier in the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain agree to a Peace Deal – the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days!” Trump tweeted.
Israel and the UAE announced they were normalizing relations on August 13, and a signing ceremony for their accord is being held at the White House on September 15. Bahrain will now join that ceremony, with its foreign minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and Netanyahu signing “a historic Declaration of Peace,” the joint statement said.
Netanyahu hailed the agreement as part of a “new era of peace” and predicted more accords would follow.
Trump, too, said he was “very hopeful” that more Arab and Muslim countries would follow suit in normalizing relations with Israel, and that “ultimately… most countries” will do so.
The Bahraini king’s senior adviser Khalid al-Khalifa said in a statement that the normalization deal “sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of Israel, that a just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people is the best path and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”
The joint statement specified that the parties would continue their efforts to achieve a “just, comprehensive and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to enable the Palestinian people to reach their full potential.”
Nonetheless, the accord constitutes another major blow to the Palestinian leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had condemned the UAE-Israel deal as despicable and a betrayal, and sought in vain to have the Arab League condemn it earlier this week.
Trump said a short while after the statement was released: “I can see a lot of good things happening with respect to the Palestinians,” and he predicted that “the Palestinians are going to end up doing something that’s gonna be very smart for them, and all their friends are coming into this and they want to come into it very badly.”
He added that “people want to see [the Middle East conflict] brought to an end, and brought to an end quickly… We’re doing to the opposite way. They were doing it with nothing but fighting and blood all over the place. The sand was loaded up with blood, and now you’re going to see that a lot of that sand is loaded up with peace.”
Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain agree to a Peace Deal – the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2020
News of the accord came shortly after the start of the Sabbath in Israel, but Netanyahu released a prepared statement and video hailing the agreement. “Citizens of Israel, I am excited to inform you that tonight we will reach another peace agreement with another Arab country, Bahrain,” Netanyahu said. “This follows the historic peace agreement with the UAE. It took us 26 years to get from the second peace agreement with an Arab state to the third peace agreement, and it took us not 26 years but 29 days to reach the peace agreement between the third Arab state and the fourth Arab state, and there will be more.”
He added: “This is a new era of peace. Peace in exchange for peace. Economy in exchange for economy. We have invested in peace for many years and now peace will invest in us. It will lead to very large investments in the Israeli economy, which is very important.”
“All of these agreements are made through hard, behind the scenes work over years, but they have now been realized thanks to the important help of our friend US President Trump, and I would like to thank him and his team for this important help. A new era — peace in exchange for peace.”
In a separate statement introducing the deal, the White House said, “The United States will continue to support the people of Bahrain as they work to counter terrorism and extremism, develop economically, and build new peaceful partnerships across the region.”
The kingdom of Bahrain, a tiny island nation close to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, had been expected by many to be the next country to establish relations with Israel, as it has long made public overtures to the Jewish state. It hosted the first major gathering of the Trump administration’s peace effort, a Peace to Prosperity workshop, in Manama in June 2019.
— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) September 11, 2020
Earlier this month, Bahrain announced that it was opening its airspace to Israeli flights.
Nonetheless, when Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner traveled to Bahrain 10 days ago after heading a joint US-Israeli delegation to the UAE, Bahrain’s king indicated that Manama would only ink a deal in concert with Saudi Arabia; and Riyadh’s crown prince told Kushner that an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord must precede any normalization agreement, in line with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
BREAKING: President @realDonaldTrump has brokered a deal to establish full diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel!
"There had been two peace agreements with Israel in the last 72 years.
This is now the second peace agreement that we've announced in the last month." pic.twitter.com/TmJTNFiyK4
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 11, 2020
In his remarks to reporters soon after the statement was issued, Trump said of the Middle East: “Even great warriors get tired of fighting, and they’re tired of fighting.”
He also said that something “very positive” could happen in regard to Iran.
Trump announced the agreement on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than this agreement,” he said.
Friday’s agreement is another diplomatic win for Trump less than two months before the presidential election and an opportunity to shore up support among pro-Israel evangelical Christians. In addition to the UAE deal, Trump just last week announced agreements in principle for Kosovo to recognize Israel and for Serbia to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Kushner noted Friday that the agreement is the second Israel has reached with an Arab country in 30 days, after having made peace with only two Arab nations — Egypt (in 1979) and Jordan (in 1994) — in 72 years of its independence. “This is very fast,” Kushner told The Associated Press. “The region is responding very favorably to the UAE deal and hopefully it’s a sign that even more will come.”
Brain Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, said “historians will look back on these two peace agreements as the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The UAE also welcomed the deal. “Today marks another significant and historic achievement which will contribute enormously to the stability and prosperity of the region,” tweeted UAE Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hend Al Otaiba.
Congratulations to the Kingdom of Bahrain and Israel on their decision to establish full diplomatic relations. Today marks another significant and historic achievement which will contribute enormously to the stability and prosperity of the region.
— هند مانع العتيبة Hend Al Otaiba (@hend_mana) September 11, 2020
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi praised the agreement as an “important step” that would help establish “stability and peace in the Middle East, in a way that achieves a just and permanent settlement of the Palestinian issue.”
Trump had hinted during a Thursday press conference that another country might join Israel and the UAE for their normalization signing ceremony.
“Next week at the White House we’ll be having a signing between the UAE and Israel, and we could have another country added into that. And I will tell you that countries are lining up that want to go into it,” Trump said during a White House press briefing.
“You’ll be hearing other countries coming in over a relatively short period of time. And you could have peace in the Middle East,” he said.
Regarding other possible accords, Trump said that a number of “big ones” are going to “come in,” and mentioned having spoken recently to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. “I spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia, so we’re talking. We just started the dialogue,” Trump said.
In the weeks since the normalization deal was announced on August 13, US and Israeli officials have said other Arab states will follow the UAE’s lead and normalize ties with Israel, with speculation also focusing on Oman and Sudan.
“King Salman and the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, they feel very strongly about the Palestinian cause. They would like to see the Palestinians work a fair deal and improve the lives of their people,” Kushner told reporters during a briefing on Wednesday.
“But again, they’re going to do what’s in the best interests of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi people and Muslim people from throughout the world as they take that responsibility very seriously,” Kushner said. “We’ll see what happens and for how long, you know, they want to do it. But I will say that a lot of people are losing patience with the Palestinian leadership.”
For his part, Trump on Thursday made a point of lauding UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his willingness to formalize relations with Israel. Trump called the UAE’s de facto leader a “warrior” and said “Mohammed’s very excited about this.”
Trump went on to claim that if he wins another presidential term in November, both Iran and the Palestinians will return to the negotiation table.
“If we win the election, Iran will come and sign a deal with us very rapidly. Within the first, I would say week, but let’s give ourselves a month because their GDP went down [by] 25% [as a result of US-led sanctions], which is like an unheard of number and they’d like to get back to having a successful country again,” Trump said.
“And I think… the Palestinians will get back into the fold,” the president continued, admitting that he was “frankly surprised” that Ramallah has continued to boycott his administration since Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.
However, he said his administration’s decision to withhold $750 million dollars in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority “is the best way… to bring [the sides] together.”