WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain has agreed to recognize Israel, following a similar deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last month. The agreement is another sign of the shifting dynamic in the Middle East, one that brings Arab nations closer to Israel and is seen as isolating Palestinians.
From the Oval Office, Trump said he had hosted a “historic call” between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and King Ahmad Al Khalifa of Bahrain where the leaders agreed that Bahrain will “fully normalize its diplomatic relations with Israel.” Trump called the move “a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East.”
“There's no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than the agreement that we're about to tell you,” Trump said to reporters. Friday morning the U.S. president traveled to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Bahrain deal follows the August 13 “Abraham Accord” — an agreement by Israel and the U.A.E. to normalize relations. As part of the accord, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to halt plans to annex portions of the West Bank. The White House is scheduled to host a signing ceremony of the Abraham Accord early next week.
Trump predicted the agreement would encourage other Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel.
“We think ultimately you'll have most countries join and you're going to have the Palestinians in a very good position,” Trump said. “They want to come in, they're going to want to come in, because all of their friends are in.”
The Palestinian Authority leadership swiftly condemned Bahrain’s decision, calling it a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian issue.”
The normalization deal between Israel and Bahrain is further evidence that Arab governments are abandoning the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 and the Palestinian issue, in return for essentially nothing, according to Dana El Kurd of the Palestinian Policy Network think tank Al-Shabaka.
“The Bahrain deal does not even pretend to be in exchange for anything tangible related to the Palestinian cause or statehood project,” she added.
The U.A.E. and Bahrain agreements to recognize Israel are important pieces in the administration’s larger strategy in the Middle East, which some analysts have described as essentially circumventing the Palestinians in negotiations over their own fate.