Trump Declares 'The Dawn of a New Middle East' With Peace Deal Signings

Trump peace
(L-R)US President Donald Trump speaks as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani listen before they participate in the signing of the Abraham Accords where the countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared "the dawn of a new Middle East" with the formal signing of the historic U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, an effort at normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—though it remains to be seen how far the Middle East peace deal will spread.

"We're here to change the course of history," Trump said during an event at the White House South Lawn to mark the occasion. "This is an incredible day for the world."

The agreements establish peace, diplomatic relations and full normalization between Israel and the two Arab Middle East countries. The nations will establish embassies and appoint ambassadors to each other, Trump said.

"They're going to work together," Trump said. "They are friends."

For decades, Arab nations in the region have resisted efforts to recognize Israel because of the country's ongoing dispute with Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders, who have sought the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, have already condemned the U.S.-backed peace effort, which they see as a way around resolving their decades-long conflict.

"The U.S. administration has used all its political and economic might to extort, pressure, and bully Arab and other states to normalize Israeli colonization and trample on foundational principles of international law, including the tacit endorsement of the war crime of annexation," Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, said in a statement this week. "The false promise of prosperity and peace based on the US-Israeli approach will prove itself a destructive mirage that will only further destabilize the region."

The UAE and Bahrain become the third and fourth Arab nations, respectively, in the Middle East to recognize Israel since its formation in the 1940s, joining Egypt and Jordan.

Trump and members of his administration have said they expect to expand the Middle East peace effort to other Arab countries.

"We have many nations ready to follow," Trump told reporters ahead of the signing ceremony Tuesday, without naming specific countries. "We're very far down the road with five additional countries."

Trump said he thinks the expansion of diplomatic efforts under the Abraham Accords ultimately will pressure Palestine into peace deal talks.

"We are talking to the Palestinians, and at the right time they will join," Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu also expressed optimism about what lies ahead.

"Ultimately, it can end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all," Netanyahu said. "This was unimaginable just a few years ago."

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of people, haling from each of the countries involved, attended the signing ceremony Tuesday, where flags representing the nations lined the White House.

"We are witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East—a change that will send hope around the world," UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said.

Ahead of the official events, a senior administration official told reporters that attendees were encouraged to wear masks, but they were not required. The official, who asked not to be named to discuss the sensitive arrangements, noted that everyone taking part would be tested for COVID-19, and that the event was taking place on the White House South Lawn to allow open air and social distancing.