Donald Trump has hailed a new US-brokered accord between three countries as a chance to “change the course of history” in the Middle East.
Celebrating “a major stride in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity”, the US President hosted leaders from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the signing of agreements to normalise relations with Israel’s leader.
The White House ceremony on Wednesday morning (Australian time) capped a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will towards Israel without a resolution of its decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.
“The people of the Middle East will no longer allow hatred of Israel to be fomented as an excuse for radicalism or extremism,” Mr Trump said.
“And they’ll no longer allow the great destiny of their region to be denied.”
UAE and Bahrain are just the third and fourth Arab states to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.
Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel in 1978 and 1994 respectively. Other states have refused to establish ties with Israel until its Palestinian dispute was settled.
The deals have been denounced by the Palestinians, who have called them dangerous betrayals.
They said Mr Trump’s proposals were biased in Israel’s favour, warning that annexation would destroy their hopes of a viable future independent state.
Palestinians protested in the West Bank as the accord was being signed, while Assistant minister of multilateral affairs for the Palestinian Authority Ammar Hijaz called it “a sad day”.
“The only path for peace for the Palestinians is ending this brutal Israeli occupation and granting the Palestinians their inalienable rights for self-determination. Without that there is no path to peace in the region,” Mr Hijazi told Al Jazeera.
He went on to call the White House signing ceremony a “photo op” that “only crowns Israel as the policeman of the region”, saying it would allow more US weapons sales to the region.
Atop a balcony overlooking the White House law Israeli’s PM stood alongside Mr Trump, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
Meeting Mr Netanyahu earlier in the Oval Office, Mr Trump said he expected other countries to forge their own accords with Israel.
“We’ll have at least five or six countries coming along very quickly,” he said, without naming the countries.
The three Middle East countries “are going to work together, they are friends”, Mr Trump said.