WASHINGTON — The normalization accords Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday feature no specific commitment to working toward a two-state solution, but rather suffice with pursuing a “just” end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Several hours after the signing ceremony on the White House lawn, the White House released the long-awaited texts of the inked agreements, which appeared to demonstrate a victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since coming out in support of the two-state paradigm in a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University, the premier has slowly shifted away from his support for the concept.
He has backed US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which envisions a “realistic two-state solution,” but has said that he does not necessarily consider what the Palestinians are to receive under the proposal to be a state.
In the “Treaty of Peace” document signed by Israel and the UAE, the sides “recall” the unveiling of the Trump peace plan last January, a proposal that was vehemently opposed by the Palestinian Authority, due in no small part to its green-lighting of the eventual Israeli annexation of all settlements in the West Bank along with the Jordan Valley.
White House releases three accords signed at today's ceremony. Here's the Abraham Accord (joint statement espousing peace) pic.twitter.com/ydn1w5JbIG
— Jacob Magid (@JacobMagid) September 15, 2020
The sides then commit “to continuing their efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The treaty continues by stating that in the spirit of the peace agreements Israel reached with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi are “committed to working together to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both people, and to advance comprehensive Middle East peace, stability and prosperity.”
In the less formal “Declaration of Peace” document Israel signed with Bahrain, the wording is nearly identical. The Israel-Bahrain declaration states that the sides will continue “the efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The only word not also included in the Declaration of Peace’s description of the parties’ mutually agreed-upon end to the conflict is “realistic.”
Both the Emiratis and Bahrainis have been firm supporters of a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have insisted that their willingness to normalize with Israel does not come at the expense of their support for the Palestinians and the effort to see them establish them a state on the pre-1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Prior to the Tuesday signing, Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, acknowledged to reporters during an online briefing that the two-state solution would only receive an indirect reference.
“It does reference the two-state [solution] through references to previous agreements that were signed. And you will see that, I think, clearly. And then it goes into areas of cooperation and so forth, and sort of frames the type of relations the two states strive for,” he said.
In addition to not specifying a two-state solution, neither accord signed Tuesday makes any mention of the Temple Mount.
Trump during Tuesday’s ceremony mentioned Israel’s willingness to allow Muslims from around the world to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Temple Mount compound known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.
In the joint statement from Israel, Bahrain and the US that was distributed by the White House on Friday, “Israel affirmed that… all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the al-Asqa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites will remain open for peaceful worshipers of all faiths.”
The president claimed in his speech that such deals put to bed “lies” about the “mosque being under attack by Israel.”
While Israel has security control of the site, having annexed the area after capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War, the actual administration is handled by the Islamic Waqf Council, a Jordanian-appointed body that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. It claims exclusive authority over the Temple Mount compound and says it is not subject to Israeli jurisdiction.
Critics in the Arab world expressed concern over the implication in such statements that Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount was being legitimized. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif, as the capital of their future state.
Therefore, the apparent omission of such a clause in the accords themselves appeared to be a nod to those critics.
15 areas of cooperation
Beyond mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the seven-page “peace treaty” between Israel and the UAE also “reaffirm[s the parties’] shared belief that the establishment of peace and full normalization between them can help transform the Middle East by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations”
“The Parties shall be guided in their relations by the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the principle of international law governing relations among States,” the document states. “In particular, they shall recognize and respect each other’s sovereignty and right to live in peace and security, develop friendly relations of cooperation between them and their peoples, and settle all disputes between them by peaceful means.”
Israel and the UAE agree to establish embassies “at the earliest practicable date” and finalize bilateral agreements in the following 15 areas: finance and investment; civil aviation; visas and consular services; innovation, trade and economic relations; healthcare; science, technology and peaceful uses of outer space; tourism; culture and sport; energy; environment; education; maritime arrangements; telecommunications and post; agriculture and food security; water; legal cooperation.
“This Treaty shall be ratified by both Parties as soon as practicable in conformity with their respective national procedures and will enter into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification,” the document states.
Peace Declaration and Abraham Accords
In their one page “peace declaration,” Israel and Bahrain “trust that this development will help lead to a future in which all peoples and all faiths can live together in the spirit of cooperation and enjoy peace and prosperity where states focus on shared interests and building a better future.”
“The Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel have agreed to seek agreements in the coming weeks regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, and other areas of mutual benefit, as well as reaching agreement on the reciprocal opening of embassies,” the declaration reads.
All four parties — represented by Trump, Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani — also signed a third document, the Abraham Accords, that includes a joint commitment to peace and tolerance.
This eight-paragraph document states that the parties “recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom.”
“We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity,” the document continues. “We seek tolerance and respect for every person in order to make this world a place where all can enjoy a life of dignity and hope, no matter their race, faith or ethnicity.”