UAE and Bahrain start a new chapter in Arab-Israeli ties

UAE and Bahrain start a new chapter in Arab-Israeli ties
The UAE-Israel agreement was sealed on Aug.13 while the Bahrain-Israel deal materialized just last week. (AP)
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Updated 16 September 2020

UAE and Bahrain start a new chapter in Arab-Israeli ties

UAE and Bahrain start a new chapter in Arab-Israeli ties
  • UAE and Bahrain sign agreements with Israel that hold out the promise of lasting Middle East peace
  • Both Gulf Arab states have emphasised the centrality of a two-state solution for the Palestinian people

CHICAGO: In what seemed like a re-enactment of ceremonies that have come before, nearly 1,000 people gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday to watch Arab and Israeli leaders sign landmark normalization accords. In addition to the promise of a new page in Jewish-Arab relations, the event generated photo-ops that President Donald Trump will find useful as he heads down the final stretch of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Despite the inevitable feeling of deja vu, the signing of the Abraham Accords declaration is different in important respects from the treaties that were signed by Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Jordan’s King Hussein and Palestine’s Yasser Arafat. For one, the immediate objective is not the cessation of military hostilities or the creation of a Palestinian state, but rather “normalization” of relations between Israel and two Gulf states that have been on the sidelines of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The White House ceremony was also different in that it took place against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of almost 200,000 people in the US and hundreds more in the three signatory countries: Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. The mask-wearing attendees visible in photos and videos of the gathering are likely to become markers of a most unusual period in modern world history.
 




President Donald Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, far left, and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, at the White House for the signing ceremony on Tuesday. (AFP)

That said, a peace accord with an Arab country has always been critical to Israel’s foreign-policy vision. Sealing deals with two Arab countries at the same time can only be described as a dream come true for an Israeli leader, in this case Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As for President Trump, who brokered the agreements, he has come in for praise even from liberal American media outlets, who have described the Abraham Accords declaration as a major political achievement.

Most US reports in the run-up to Tuesday’s event listed in detail the Israeli attendees, noting that the agreements would be signed by Netanyahu and witnessed by Trump. By contrast, the representatives of the UAE and Bahrain, who countersigned the documents for their countries, were described as the “foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain,” not respectively as Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani.

Trump emphasized that his team “wanted this to happen so badly … they doubted it would happen.” That team included several administration officials who have strong personal ties to Israel through their politics and their faiths, including Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser; Avi Berkowitz, special representative for international negotiations; and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel.

All in all, the agreement was a diplomatic master stroke for Israel and a coup for Trump’s re-election campaign, which has the support of many significant voting blocs, notably Jewish Americans and Evangelical Christians. What cast a shadow, however, was the flat-out rejection of the accords by the Palestinians as well as the continued ill feeling between the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

These aspects of the Abraham Accords are in sharp contrast to the handshakes that took place on Sept. 13, 1993, at the White House South Lawn between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with President Bill Clinton looking on. Tuesday’s ceremony came exactly 27 years to the week from that historic moment, which was also packed with the promise of a new page in Israeli-Arab relations. Rabin was assassinated, two years later, by an Israeli extremist in November 1995.
 




US President Bill Clinton, center, brokered the Oslo Accord between Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, seen shaking hands, on Sept. 13, 1993. (AFP)

Will this time be different? While thanking Trump and officials of the UAE and Bahrain, Netanyahu did not explicitly mention Palestinians when he said the accords would bring peace to “all.” But in an interview with Arab News, Ronald Lauder, a billionaire businessman and chairman of the influential World Jewish Congress, welcomed the Abraham Accords and emphasized that the Palestinian issue was still a priority.

“I think that this is a historic agreement between Israel and the UAE and between Israel and Bahrain. It opens up the entire region; it is a question of starting to believe in each other,” he said.

“This is going to have a ripple effect throughout the Middle East. I believe there will be other countries joining very shortly in this phase. And I believe very, very much that the Palestinians, seeing what is happening, will finally say it is time to come to the peace table and will sit down with Israel and the United States and say let’s talk peace.”

Earlier, Jamal Al-Musharakh, Director of Policy Planning at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the agreement signed by his country will create a “new environment” that will foster and nurture peace not only between Israel and other Arab states but also with Palestinians themselves.

“We have not abandoned the Palestinians,” he told Arab News. “It is a strategic shift. The deal provides a more optimistic view of the future and will result in benefits for all in the region, including for the Palestinians. But the Palestinians need to engage with the peace process themselves.”

The domestic political implications of the normalization agreements will be analyzed deeply by American pundits in the weeks to come. The UAE-Israel agreement was sealed on Aug.13 while the Bahrain-Israel deal materialized just last week.

White House officials, including Berkowitz, told reporters in a recent background briefing that the UAE agreement is much more detailed than the Bahrain deal, which is still being discussed.

Skeptics argue that the objective of the exercise in peace-making is essentially Trump’s re-election. The White House added grist to the mill by issuing a formal press release on Sept. 9 announcing that Trump had again been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.




President Trump met with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in the Oval Office before the signing of the Abraham Accord. (AFP)

As far as Israeli politics is concerned, the recognition by two Arab states has helped bolster the political standing of Netanyahu, who endured three tightly fought elections before he could reach a power-sharing deal with his rival, Benny Gantz.

Many questions remain to be answered. Will more Arab countries sign agreements with Israel and which ones are they? Lauder said he hoped Saudi Arabia and Morocco would be next.

Will the agreements lead to a new wave of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians? In the fullness of time, how will the hardliners in Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the Qataris react to the Abraham Accords?

Such questions may not have been uppermost in the minds of the attendees of the Sept. 15 White House gathering, but then Washington, D.C. is a world away from the furies of the Middle East. According to media reports, Hamas militants in Gaza fired two rockets into southern Israel, wounding two people, in an attack that was apparently timed to coincide with the signing ceremony.

Twitter: @rayhanania


Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record

Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record
Updated 46 min 20 sec ago

Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record

Oman night ban returns as ICU cases hit new record
  • There are more than 770 hospitalized COVID-19 patients
  • Authorities have renewed the ban on all commercial activities and movement of people and vehicles between 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

DUBAI: Oman has reported on Wednesday a record number of coronavirus patients in the intensive care unit as the Sultanate renewed night curfew, daily Times of Oman reported.

There are more than 770 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with 264 in ICU, for the first time since the pandemic started, the report said.

Authorities have renewed the ban on all commercial activities and movement of people and vehicles between 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

All types of gatherings, including iftars in mosques, tents or public places typical during Ramadan are affected by the prohibition against mass assembly.

Oman’s Supreme Committee, which was created to deal with all coronavirus pandemic related developments, also imposed a ban on all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities.

Key sectoral workers such as in oil, healthcare, utilities, food supply, media and three-ton trucks are exempted from the movement ban, provided they have permissions. Pharmacies were also allowed to operate during the commercial ban.

The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation, according to Dr. Abdullah Nasser Al-Harrasi, the minister of Information and a member of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee.


Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister

Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister
Updated 21 min 35 sec ago

Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister

Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in May for ‘normalization’ talks: foreign minister
  • Turkey and Egypt froze ties after the 2013 overthrow of president Muhammad Mursi
  • Cavusoglu said the first delegation talks would be at the level of deputy foreign ministers

ISTANBUL: A Turkish delegation will visit Egypt next month as part of Ankara’s efforts to mend ties, the foreign minister said on Thursday.
“Egypt invited a delegation from Turkey. The delegation will go in early May,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the private NTV broadcaster.
“We will discuss openly how to normalize relations.”
Turkey and Egypt froze ties after the 2013 overthrow of president Muhammad Mursi, who forged close ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
That year, both countries expelled each others’ ambassadors and Cairo had then declared the Turkish envoy “persona non grata.”
But Turkish officials last month said Ankara had established the first diplomatic contacts with Cairo since 2013 as part of wider efforts to repair relations with other Middle Eastern rivals.
Cavusoglu on Thursday said the first delegation talks would be at the level of deputy foreign ministers, ahead of a contact between the ministers.
“I hope we will all together further improve relations,” he said.


US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel

US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel
Updated 20 min 47 sec ago

US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel

US ready to facilitate maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel
  • He also addressed Iran’s cooperation and work with Hezbollah
  • The official also addressed the current economic and political crisis in the country and Hezbollah’s activities


DUBAI: The US Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale said on Thursday they are ready to facilitate a Lebanese-Israeli agreement on the maritime borders.

“These negotiations have the potential to unlock significant economic benefits for Lebanon,” Hale said during a press conference at Baabda palace in Lebanon.

The official also addressed the current economic and political crisis in the country and Hezbollah’s activities.

“(The) Lebanese people are suffering cause the leaders failed to put the interests of the country first,” Hale said.

“Hezbollah’s accumulation of dangerous weapons, smuggling and other illicit and corrupt activities undermine legitimate state institutions, they rob the Lebanese the ability to build a peaceful and prosperous country,” he added.

He also addressed Iran’s cooperation and work with Hezbollah.

“It’s Iran that’s fueling and financing this challenge to the state and its distortion of Lebanese political life,” Hale added.

The Under Secretary for Political Affairs also said that those who stand in the way may face punishment.

“Those who continue to obstruct progress on the reform agenda, jeopardize their relationship with the United States and our partners and open themselves up to punitive actions,” Hale added.


Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets
Updated 15 April 2021

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets
  • Israel is a signatory to numerous international treaties obliging it to respect the sanctity of holy places

AMMAN: Jordan on Wednesday condemned Israeli police for sabotaging door locks at four Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets in a bid to silence the Muslim call to prayer.

The move came after waqf officials, who oversee Jerusalem’s holy sites, refused to turn off loudspeakers on the first day of Ramadan. They said the Israelis had wanted it quiet while new soldiers prayed at the Buraq (Western) wall.

Jordanian officials claimed employees of the Jordan-run Jerusalem waqf and Al-Aqsa affairs department were harassed during the police operation.

Daifallah Al-Fayez, spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, described the Israeli actions as a provocation against Muslims around the world and a violation of international law and the historical status quo.

He said that Al-Aqsa Mosque was a “pure” Islamic holy site and that the Jerusalem waqf department was “the sole authority” tasked with supervising all of its affairs.

A source at the Jerusalem Waqf Council told Arab News: “This is the first time since 1967 that Israeli occupiers have sabotaged locks in order to enter the minarets and physically cut off the electricity to the loudspeakers. And they pursued waqf officials and staff who refused to carry out their demands.”

Israel is a signatory to numerous international treaties obliging it to respect the sanctity of holy places.

An Israeli siren was sounded in Jerusalem at 8 p.m. on Tuesday as a tribute to the country’s 23,928 fallen soldiers with that day’s call for isha prayer in the city being at 8:29 p.m.

Hanna Issa, head of the Islamic-Christian Committee for Jerusalem, told Arab News that the Israeli action had been a violation of the 1998 Rome Convention and called on the international community to hold Israel to account.

Dimitri Diliani, president of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land, told Arab News that the incident was an attempt to stifle religious freedoms and represented an attack against Islamic holy places.

“In addition, this is a reflection of a racist policy of the Israeli occupiers that can’t accept anyone who is not Jewish,” he said.

Ahmad Tamimi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, urged international action to put an end to Israeli violations of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.


Exposed: Houthi plan to prosecute kidnapped Yemeni model Entisar Hammadi

Exposed: Houthi plan to prosecute kidnapped Yemeni model Entisar Hammadi
Updated 15 April 2021

Exposed: Houthi plan to prosecute kidnapped Yemeni model Entisar Hammadi

Exposed: Houthi plan to prosecute kidnapped Yemeni model Entisar Hammadi
  • Kidnapping of Al-Hammadi and two friends is latest attack by the Houthis on dissidents

AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis plan to launch a criminal investigation against Entesar Al-Hammadi, a young Yemeni model and actress, who was abducted from a Sanaa street on Feb. 20, the model’s lawyer Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal said on Wednesday.

The kidnapping of Al-Hammadi and two of her friends is the latest in a string of attacks by the Houthis on dissidents and liberal women in areas under the group’s control.

Al-Kamal told Arab News that a prosecutor from the rebel-controlled West Sanaa court will question Entesar on Sunday.

“My client was arrested without a warrant,” Al-Kamal said by telephone, giving no information about the Houthis’ explanation for the abduction.

Yemeni officials said the three actresses were traveling to shoot a drama series when the rebels stopped their vehicle on Sanaa’s Hadda Street and took them to an unknown location.
 


Al-Hammadi was born to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother and pursued her ambition to become a model despite growing up in a conservative society. The 20-year-old first caught the public’s attention after she published images showing off traditional Yemeni costumes and she later appeared on a local television show talking about her dream of becoming an international supermodel.

The Houthis accused the abducted actresses of violating traditional Islamic dress codes.

Their detainment has sparked outrage inside and outside Yemen as human rights activists and government officials compared Houthi suppression of women to similar activities by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh.


Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen's minister for information, culture and tourism, said the rebels have launched a “systemic and organized” crackdown on Yemeni women in areas under their control.

“We call on the international community, the UN, the US envoys to Yemen and the women's protection organizations to condemn this crime and pressure the terrorist Houthi militia to immediately release the abductees,” the minister wrote on social media. “They must stop the extortion of women and release all disappeared women from their secret prisons unconditionally.”

Al-Hammadi told a local TV station last year that she wished she could travel abroad to work as a model, citing parental and societal resistance at home.

“It would be great if I was given an opportunity outside Yemen,” she said.

 

 


Social media users have blasted the Houthis for snatching women from the street.

Huda Al-Sarari, a Yemeni activist, said that the abduction of Al-Hammadi is part of “a dirty” campaign by the rebels against women.

“My solidarity is with my dear Entisar and with all male and female abductees inside the militia’s prisons,” she wrote on Twitter.

Amat Al-Salam Al-Hajj, chairwoman of the Mothers of Abductees Association, an umbrella organization for thousands of female relatives of war prisoners, told Arab News that the Houthis have “brazenly” committed crimes against dissidents and women amid “unexplained” silence of international rights organizations.

“The Houthis have abducted models and female activists and committed flagrant violations of human rights before the eyes and ears of the UN, human rights organizations, and everyone else,” she said.