Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House ceremony next Tuesday

Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House ceremony next Tuesday

17:52 -Israeli delegation to be led by Netanyahu, who says he is ‘proud’ to attend event; Emirati FM bin Zayad, brother of crown prince, to represent UAE

Israel and the United Arab Emirates will sign their historic deal normalizing relations at a White House ceremony on September 15, a senior White House official confirmed to The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

US officials said senior delegations from both countries would likely be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayad, the brother of the Abu Dhabi crown prince.

The officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ceremony would either be held on the South Lawn, the Rose Garden or inside, depending on the weather.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement in the premier’s name on Tuesday evening confirming his attendance. “I am proud to travel to Washington next week, at the invitation of President Trump, and to attend the historic White House ceremony establishing the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” the prime minister said.

Senior UAE official Hend al-Otaiba also issued a statement confirming Bin Zayed’s attendance, adding that the ceremony “will be a momentous occasion in the histories of our two countries and the region.”

Numerous Arab diplomats, including from countries that don’t have formal ties with Israel, are expected to attend the ceremony, in a bid to show that the agreement enjoys widespread support, the Walla news site reported.

The ceremony will come just a month after the agreement to establish full diplomatic relations was announced on August 13. The deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to US President Donald Trump as he seeks reelection, and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

According to Walla, Israel and the US are still working toward a diplomatic breakthrough with another Arab state before the signing ceremony, though it is unclear if this will be possible.

While officials in Israel and the US claimed in the wake of the UAE announcement that another country or more would follow within days or weeks, those expectations have dampened. Other Arab states reportedly in talks with Israel have shown reluctance for anything stronger than a goodwill gesture, instead insisting that a peace deal with the Palestinians preclude any normalization.

The initial Israel-UAE normalization deal announcement was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, the establishment of telephone links and commitments to cooperate in numerous areas.

The United Arab Emirates is reportedly planning on sending an official delegation to Israel on September 22 to further advance the normalization efforts. The delegation will be “in reciprocation” for a trip to Abu Dhabi last week by senior Israeli and US officials, a source told the Reuters news agency.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, led the delegation that visited Abu Dhabi last week on the first-ever direct Israeli flight from Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv. Also on the trip were US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.