Israelis are delighted the government has reached another peace deal with an Arab country, this time Bahrain, following last month’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates. Analysts say the Gulf states see the deals as a way to discourage potential attacks from Iran. But Palestinians are furious at the deal, calling Bahrain’s move “another knife in the back.”
President Donald Trump announced the latest Arab-Israeli peace deal was in Washington on the anniversary of the September 11th 2001, terrorist attack.
"There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11 than the agreement that we’re about to tell you," he said. "You will hear something today. It’s very very important not only for the Middle East but for the world. In the spirt of peace and cooperation both leaders also agree that Bahrain will fully normalize its diplomatic relations with Israel."
He said the deal will include an exchange of ambassadors, and a series of agreements in fields including high tech and tourism.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was clearly pleased, especially as he faces growing anger among the public for what many say is his mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. The rate of new infections in Israel per day is among the highest in the world.
“It took us a full 26 years from Israel’s second peace agreement with an Arab state to the third peace agreement, and now it’s taken us only 29 days from the third peace agreement to the fourth. What a change," he said. "I want to express my appreciation for His Majesty the King of Bahrain for joining the Circle of Peace, and my appreciation for crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed for working with Israel and the United States to expand the circle of peace.”
Netanyahu will be in Washington on Tuesday, alongside President Trump and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain, to sign the peace deals.
There is no mention of military alliance in the deals, but many analysts see the Gulf states acting in order to give themselves extra protection from any Iranian attack.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat is one who holds that point of view.
"The Bahrain-Israeli agreement to normalize relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It’s not about peace, it’s not about relations between countries," he said. "We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region, maybe they want to call it an Arab-Israel NATO. As far as we, as far as Palestinians are concerned, big Israel can bring 193 ambassadors to Tel Aviv, but then what? I am what needs to be solved, I am the problem. They are my problem. I am what needs to be solved and the only way to have peace in this region is to solve the Palestinian question."
Israeli analysts said that Bahrain is close to Saudi Arabia, and the deal could only have been reached with tacit Saudi approval.
Some Israelis now believe it is only a matter of time before the Saudi kingdom itself makes peace with Israel.
Meanwhile, the first business deals between Israel and the UAE are being signed, and direct flights between the two countries are set to start next month.