The US is claiming a major diplomatic victory after United Arab Emirates and Israel agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.
The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state and only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.
"Today we usher in a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. "There is a good chance we will soon see more Arab countries joining this expanding circle of peace."
Palestinian officials have expressed fury over the announcement. They have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalise relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached. A spokesman for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday the agreement amounts to "treason." Abbas has convened a urgent meeting of his top leadership in response to the news.
The official Palestinian news agency now says the Palestinian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates is being recalled.
Netanyahu also said in the broadcast there was "no change" to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank but added they were on "temporary hold" and that implementing annexation would be done with US coordination.
His remarks appeared aimed at placating influential settlers who were angered by Israel's shelving of plans to annex parts of the West Bank. But they contradicted statements from Emirati officials who viewed annexation as off the table.
Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was "a truly historic moment."
"Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates," he said.
The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition while attempts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway.
The joint statement from the US, the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
"Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East's most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations," said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the day-to-day ruler of the UAE.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the deal "a remarkable achievement for two of the world's most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region."
In addition to Trump, the main US mediators were the president's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, special envoy for Iran Brian Hook and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel.
In recent years, ties between Gulf Arab nations and Israel have quietly grown, in part over their shared enmity of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Prince Mohammed also shares Israel's distrust of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherbonnet and Hamas.
It remains unclear what prompted Israel and the UAE to make the announcement now.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the November election, called the agreement between Israel and the UAE "a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East."
Australian Associated Press