Wed, 30 Sep 2020

'Tremendous enthusiasm' for Arab nations to agree deals with Israel

By Jay Jackson, Beijing News.Net
13 Sep 2020, 11:22 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. President Donald Trump's telephone diplomacy has scored another major victory as he readies for the polls on 3 November.

Announcing his second Mideast peace deal in just under a month, the president announced on Friday that following a three-way telephone call, the leaders of the United States, Israel and the kingdom of Bahrain had reached an an agreement for relations between the two countries to be normalized.

Trump made the announcement of the agreement on Friday, immediately after his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

The three leaders issued a six-paragraph joint statement confirming the agreement. Mr Trump said there was "tremendous enthusiasm," for other countries to normalize relations as well, and said this will happen quite quickly.

"President Donald J. Trump, King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke together and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain," Mr Trump posted on Twitter.

"The second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days," he added.

The joint statement said: "This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East."

"Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region."

Bahrain, which has had covert relations with Israel for a number of years, as have a number of Gulf countries including the UAE, according to Mr Netanyahu, was widely expected to follow the UAE decision of last month. The move is illustrative of a broader change in the Arab world's approach as Bahrain would not have concluded such a significant agreement without the nod of its powerful adjacent neighbour Saudi Arabia.

The announcement comes within two days of a meeting of foreign ministers of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) during which the Gulf countries isolated Palestine.

The rush to conclude agreements with the final points being negotiated over the phone just weeks from the U.S. presidential election appears to be supportive of attempts to shore up Mr Trump's presidency.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said Friday the UAE and Bahrain pacts were "contributing to Trump's presidential campaign at the expense of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."

Hamas, which is at odds with the ruling Fatah party in the West Bank, sided with its opponent in opposing the Bahrain deal.

"What the Kingdom of Bahrain did is disgraceful and constitutes a political setback and a major downfall for the rulers of Bahrain," the militant group said in a statement Saturday. "This series of steps, initiated by the Emiratis, and then the rulers of Bahrain, constitutes political crimes, contributes to the implementation of the Deal of the Century and undermines the foundations of Arab solidarity. Hamas rejects this announcement and considers it a stab in the back of the Palestinian people, a betrayal of Palestine and Jerusalem, and a step against the interests of the Arabs and Muslims."

It was a different story at the White House as the administration celebrated the breakthrough with pats on the back all round.

"Just a few moments ago, I hosted a historic call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and King Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain. Both leaders expressed their condolences as well to the American people on this very, very tragic, horrible event that took place on September 11th. And they very much meant it. I want to thank them for that," President Trump said as he was announcing the news of the peace agreement.

"There's no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than the agreement that we're about to tell you. You will hear something today that's, I think, very, very important for not only the Middle East but for the world."

"In the spirit of peace and cooperation, both leaders also agreed that Bahrain will fully normalize its diplomatic relations with Israel. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors, begin direct flights between their countries, and launch cooperation initiatives across a broad range of sectors, including health, business, technology, education, security, and agriculture. This is a truly historic day," said the president.

"There have been two peace agreements with Israel in the last 72 years. This is now the second peace agreement that we have announced in the last month, and I am very hopeful that there will be more to follow. I can tell you there's tremendous enthusiasm on behalf of other countries to also join. And we think, ultimately, you'll have most countries join, and you're going to have the Palestinians in a very good position. They want to come in - they're going to want to come in because all of their friends are in. But we have tremendous enthusiasm for coming into the deal."

"I want to thank the group of very talented people behind me, and you're going to be hearing from them in a second. But it's just a very historic day, a very important day, and so interesting that it's on 9/11. It's such a great time. We didn't know this was going to happen in terms of the timing, but it did happen, and we're very honored by it, Mr Trump said.

"When I took office, the Middle East was in a state of absolute chaos. I've restored trust with our regional partners, and together we've eliminated the ISIS caliphate 100 percent; isolated the radicals who pervert Islam and sow instability. Today, nations across the region and throughout the world are joining together, united in their determination to build a better future, free from the evils which perpetuate terror. And I think you see that. I think you see that happening very, very strongly."

"I also spoke with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and we talked about this, and he is - he's a great gentleman. And what they've done in terms of fighting terror is a much different ballgame than it was before we attained this office. The fact is that Saudi Arabia was doing things that they're not doing anymore, and so are other countries and neighbors. They are doing things that they just would never have done. Their levels and their - all of the things - all of the many, many elements of fighting and hate, they seem to be evaporating. And we'll find out very soon. But they seem to be evaporating," the U.S. president said.

"So things are happening in the Middle East that nobody thought was even possible to think about, and that's what's going on right now. Bahrain has agreed to join Israel and the United Arab Emirates for - and, by the way, I want to thank Mohammed, who's a great leader, a truly great leader - at the White House on Tuesday. So they'll be here on Tuesday for the signing of the Abraham Accords. The significance of the signing will be elevated from an already historic breakthrough to one representing a previously unthinkable regional transformation. And that's exactly what it is. It's unthinkable that this could happen, and so fast."

"And, as you know, when we did the original signing with - and which will actually take place in terms of official on Tuesday - United Arab Emirates, people thought that was amazing. And now they're hearing this, and they're also hearing from other countries because they understand that other countries want to very much come in," said Mr Trump.

"On this occasion, I want to thank the leaders of Israel and Bahrain for their vision and courage to forge this historic agreement. Their leadership is proving that the future can be filled with hope and does not need to be predetermined by conflicts of the past. You know all about the conflicts of the past; they're very legendary. There was a lot of problems going on, but we've been able to work things out to a level that nobody thought possible. This is really something very special - very, very special."

"As more countries normalize relations with Israel - which will happen quite quickly, we believe - the region will become more and more stable, secure, and prosperous," the president said.

"In the meantime, we're pulling most of our soldiers out. So we're doing it 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 going to be loaded up with peace."

"The United States will continue to stand with the people of the region and work with them, and build a brighter and much more hopeful future," said President Trump.

"So we're very proud of this. And as time goes by, I think you'll see more and more why. I think most of you realize how important it is. Even The New York Times, who was very generous in their praise of the original deal, and they never thought - I think nobody thought this was going to happen so quickly after the first."

"But they'll both be here on Tuesday. They're going to be signing. Benjamin Netanyahu will be here. The Prime Minister will be here - Israel. And we look forward to that," Mr Trump continued.

"Just on this deal, because of the importance of the deal, we'll take some questions. But first, I'd like to ask Jared to say a few words and Mike Pence to say a few words and some of the folks. David, I'd like you to say something about it because it's so historic."

"And these people have worked so hard and so long on it. This is really the culmination of a long period of time - let's put it that way. I don't want to say how long, but it's been - it's a long period of time. It's a great thing," said the president.

"Jared, please."

"Thank you, Mr. President. And first, I want to thank you for your leadership on this issue. Your first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, where you outlined a vision for the region. And all of the promises you made on that trip and all of the things that you foreshadowed have occurred," said Mr Kushner.

"It's been a strategy that you've stuck with, and I want to thank you for giving me the trust and confidence that you've given me in order to work on this file over the last years. And I think the results that we've achieved has been beyond anyone's expectations. And I believe that there's even more to come."

"I just returned from the region last week. I was in the Middle East, where I took the first commercial flight that's ever flown from Israel to the United Arab Emirates. That flight flew over Saudi Arabian airspace. It was the first time in 72 years that Saudi Arabia has now waived their airspace to allow commercial flights to fly from Israel back and forth," Mr Kushner said.

"Bahrain then did the same thing. The United Arab Emirates waived a 48-year boycott on Israel, which was an incredible development. And there are now delegations moving throughout the Middle East, figuring out how to bring the people closer together."

"What President Trump has done here is unthinkable. He's brought people in the Middle East together. There's been these barriers that have existed that have led to so much instability, so much war, so much loss, so much hopelessness. And we're seeing so much hopefulness now coming," said Mr Kushner.

"And I will say something that I never thought would be the case, which is that, on this last trip, the amount of optimism that has happened, that we're experiencing in the Middle East, is truly incredible."

"So I just want to congratulate you. I want to congratulate the people of Israel. I want to congratulate the people from the Kingdom of Bahrain. I want to thank their tremendous leadership. And I also want to congratulate the people of the Middle East because the first deal that you were able to accomplish was so popular that things are really starting to move in a really strong direction," Jared Kushner said.

"And this makes America safer. It allows us to - to bring our troops home. It allows us to work on bringing prosperity to American communities."

"So, really, thank you for your leadership."

"Thank you, Jared. Great job," responded the president.

"And congratulations on this great success," said Mr Kushner.

"Great job. Thank you very much, Jared," said the president.

"Mike, please."

"Mr. President, I can think of no more fitting tribute to the heroes that were forged on this day 19 years ago, and all the heroes that were forged on battlefields ever since, than to see this peace agreement announced today," said the vice president.

"And, Mr. President, you said from early on that we could stand with Israel and we could stand for peace. Your very first foreign trip was to the Arab world - to reach out, to create new alliances. You affirmed our support for Israel when you moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. And the strength with which you have approached this has made now this second historic peace agreement possible."

"And I just want to - I want to congratulate you and thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership," said Mr Pence.

"I also want to - I want to thank the people of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the people of Israel for finding a way forward to begin to take one more step toward peace in the Middle East and to know that, in this President and in the American people, they will have an ally with us."

"The Good Book says, "Blessed are the peacemakers." And, Mr. President, I just want to congratulate you, I want to congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Hamad of Bahrain on bringing peace between their nations and widening the reach of peace in the world," said Vice President Pence.

"Thank you," said Mr Trump.

"Congratulations," said the vice president.

"Thank you very much, Mike. Great."

"Our wonderful Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who has been really something. He's been - I put him there. I knew him for a long time. He was one of the most successful lawyers in the country, by far. And at least, based on his paycheck, I can tell you that. (Laughter.) And he is a great lawyer. He's a great talent and a great dealmaker. And I put him there for a reason. I put him there to get it done, as in, just don't be a regular ambassador, like so many are. Just get it done; see if you can bring peace to the Middle East," said the president introducing Mr Friedman.

"David, please."

"Thank you, Mr. President. And I will always be indebted to you for giving me that honor. It's one that I hold extremely dear," said the ambassador.

"But, as you know, Mr. President, people have thought about the Middle East, for the past 100 years or more, as a place of violence, of hopelessness, of suffering, of war. What we're seeing in real time, in this room today and last month, we're seeing the paradigm for the Middle East completely change. The world is turning in a very positive way. And it's all because, if I may say, because of the policy that you began in May of 2017 of trusting our allies, of empowering our allies; and in my case, of course, of being the greatest friend that Israel has ever had - of putting people on the job who share those values and convictions. And the fruit is now being borne in this incredible peace agreement."

"Your policy of "peace through strength" has changed the world profoundly for the better. And I'm - as the Ambassador to Israel, I'm eternally grateful for the changes that you have made for the U.S.-Israel relationship," said Ambassador Friedman.

"Thank you, David. Great job. Thank you," said Mr Trump.

"Avi, please."

"Thank you, Mr. President. Congratulations," said Mr Berkowitz.

"Thank you, Mr. President. Congratulations on just a tremendous, historic, you know, achievement here today. I think I just speak for everybody in this room, all of my colleagues who have worked in your administration, that thanks to your leadership, there's just a tremendous sense of pride to be an American, to work on these issues under your leadership."

"And I'm just so appreciative to you and so honored to be part of your team. So thank you," said Mr Berkowitz.

"Thank you, Avi." (Applause.)

"Mr. President, I think historians will look back on these two peace agreements as the beginning of the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And you talked about the journey to get here. And I remember I heard you pledge, when you were in Riyadh and when you were in Israel - you pledged that you would strengthen America's friendships and to build new partnerships in the pursuit of peace. And you've kept that promise, and we see that very clearly today," said Mr Hook.

"Rather than appeasing America's adversaries in the region, you've recruited America's allies. And you focused on shared interests and shared threats, but you also asked them to shoulder their part of the burden and to fulfil their end of the obligation. Nations rallied behind it, and as a consequence, the foundation has now been laid for great things in the coming years."

"Great. Well said. Thank you very much," said the president.

"Would you have anything to say?"

"Mr. President, on behalf of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, thank you for your bold leadership and Sheikh Mohammed's bold leadership; Prime Minister Netanyahu's bold leadership; King Hamad's bold leadership; Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, again; your bold leadership. What we've tried for the last 100 years has not worked," said Major General Correa.

"And I think it's very fitting that, on September 11th, we honor those special operators that we buried and lost with - with peace. And this is a way to beat terrorism at the end of the day. So we're honored and privileged. And thank you for your leadership."

"Well, they had a lot of bad thinking, a lot of bad concepts, a lot of things that I never thought were going to work. These were the ones that we were relying on to make the deals, and they wasted 35 years; they wasted many, many years. And they're the ones that have been critical of us, and look what's happening: Now they're, all of a sudden, saying, "I think they made a mistake." They're all saying that about themselves," said President Trump.

"So I just want to thank this group in particular for staying here and helping us out and doing things that nobody thought could've happened. And under the old concepts of national defense or whatever category you want to put it under, it - that wasn't working, and it was never going to work. And we changed things around very drastically, and then we started to negotiate."

"And the good news - and I look at David because you know it, you see it, you hear it - the good news is we have many other countries now in the Middle East that want to be in this. And that means peace - because they're tired of fighting. You know, they can fight and they're all great fighters, and they're warriors, but even great warriors get tired of fighting, and they're tired of fighting," said the U.S. president.

"And I can see things positively happening with Iran, ultimately. And I think that can all work out very well, and I think that so many great things are going to happen. And then we can also discuss the Palestinians. I think the Palestinians are going to end up doing something that's going to be very smart for them. And all their friends are coming into this, and they want to come into it - they want to come into it very badly."

"And I can see a lot of good things happening with respect to the Palestinians, which would be really wonderful. Whether you are on their side or not on their side, people want to see it all brought to an end, and brought to an end quickly. So that's going to be very important," said President Trump.

"But this is a very historic day. Would anybody else like to say anything? Please, go. Please."

"Mr. President, I just want to thank you and Ambassador O'Brien for giving me the opportunity to serve on the National Security Council staff and be part of something historic and be part of a team. Avi and Jared are tremendous leaders, and the opportunity to work with them to do something important has been the highlight of my life. And thank you for letting me do that, sir," said Mr Vandroff.

"And you've been doing this for a long time. You never saw anything like this?" asked the president

"No. No, sir," replied Mr Vandroff.

"A little - we take a little bit of a different approach," said Mr Trump.

"Yes, sir," said Mr Vandroff

" Anybody? Please. Come up, my friend," said Mr Trump invited another attendee to the podium..

"Mr. President, 19 years ago today, my father and I almost got caught in the crosshairs of that first jet that hit the Twin Towers. That event changed the course of my life; it led me to become a United States Marine, which led to other things that brought me through a strange path here. And I want thank you for the leadership you've shown," said Mr Pottinger.

"Walter Russell Mead recently wrote - he was quoting Churchill, who once said - he got a bowl of pudding, and he said, "Take it away. It has no theme." There's now a theme emerging in the Middle East."

"There is a theme. That's good," said Mr Trump.

"And it is a theme of what is possible from peace through strength, from not appeasing our enemies, and holding our allies and friends close," responded Mr Pottinger. "So, congratulations, sir."

"Thank you very much. And this is a very, very big day. Very, very big day. Would you like to say something?" Mr Trump asked another attendee

"Yes, sir. Like Matt and many others, 19 years ago, within a month of the attacks of 9/11, I and others were conducting operations in Afghanistan. As General Correa pointed out, it's a privilege to be in different historic circumstances today; to be part of a tremendous team with outstanding leadership, all of it possible, sir, because of your vision, because of your leadership and the relationships of everyone in this room. It's an enormous opportunity. It's something that no one could imagine, but it's an enormous privilege, and I'll always be grateful for it," said Mr Greenway.

"So, congratulations to you, sir. And thank you to you and everyone else here."

"Well, it's an honor to have worked with all of you," said Mr Trump. "You're really talented people - incredible. And you were willing to be flexible. The word "flexible" is a very important word because we weren't going by the old standards and norms; we were going by standards that can get things done. But not only get them done, get them done in a much better way."

"And this is just the beginning. A lot of things are happening, and they're happening very quickly. People want to be involved, and they want to be involved. For the first time, I think - some of you have told me, the first time ever, that you've ever seen anything like this, where they're rushing into an agreement. They want to be involved," said the U.S. president.

"They're tired of fighting, as I said. They're tired of fighting. No matter how they are, no matter how great a warrior they are - and you have some great warriors. I know most of them. But it's time."

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