By BEN GITTLESON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said in a surprise announcement Thursday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to normalize relations and that, as part of the deal, Israel would not annex parts of the West Bank it currently occupies.
“Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations,” Trump said, surrounded by aides in the Oval Office. “They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security.”
In a joint statement, Trump, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE’s ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the “historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region.”
Delegations from Israel and the UAE “will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit,” the leaders said in the statement, released Thursday morning.
Joint Statement of the United States, the State of Israel, and the United Arab Emirates pic.twitter.com/oVyjLxf0jd
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2020
“Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead,” Trump said.
While the president lauded the deal as a “peace agreement,” the UAE stopped short of using that terminology and instead emphasized the fact that Israel had committed to not annex parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu had been contemplating doing so in recent months, using a peace proposal released by the White House earlier this year to support the move — which had drawn condemnation across the world.
In his first comment on the agreement, Prince Mohammed wrote on Twitter that “an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories.”
“The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship,” the crown prince added.
Israel has formal diplomatic ties with just two other Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, with which it signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively.
But it has also come to cooperate in recent years with Gulf Arab states, including the UAE — unofficially — in large part on security matters related to what they view as a shared enemy in Iran.
In their joint statement Thursday, the leaders said Israel and the UAE would “immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus.”
At the White House, Trump called the agreement “historic” and said it would be called the Abraham Accord, which the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, explained was intended to signal “the potential for unity” among Muslims, Jews and Christians.
“I wanted it to be called the Donald J. Trump Accord, but I didn’t think the press would understand that,” Trump said to laughter from his aides. “So I didn’t do that.”
Asked if he supported Israel annexing Palestinian land, Trump said “we’re talking to Israel about that right now,” without elaborating.
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