Washington — The White House will host a signing ceremony between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to document a new normalization deal between the two Middle Eastern countries that was brokered by the US, several administration officials said on Tuesday.
The ceremony, dubbed by the White House as the Abraham Accords, will be the first Middle East White House peace signing in 26 years, according to a senior administration official. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely lead the Israeli delegation, the official said, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed will lead the UAE delegation. It’s expected to be attended by world leaders from other countries in the region but the exact list of attendees is still in the works, an administration official said.
White House officials hoped to schedule the ceremony around the anniversary of the Oslo Accords, an agreement brokered by then-President Bill Clinton and signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Negotiator Mahmoud Abbas on September 13, 1993, a second administration official said.
Responding to the news, UAE ambassador to the US Yousuf al Otaiba said, “We look forward to the ceremony on 15th. This historic breakthrough will open a new chapter in opportunities and stability for the region. Now that annexation is off the table, we can work together on building upon this solid foundation of peace.”
The Trump administration, an ally to both nations, has worked to bring the two sides together to achieve normalization, which would entail the establishment of political and economic ties for the first time in both countries’ histories.
Last week senior advisers to President Donald Trump, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook escorted Israeli government officials on a symbolic, first-ever commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, marking the launch of political and commercial ties between the two countries. The flight flew through Saudi Arabian air space that day — another first — which officials hailed as the beginning of a potential thaw in relations between Israel and the Kingdom.
Trump’s effort to negotiate a historic peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians failed after the Palestinians accused his administration of being biased toward Israel. As President, Trump has taken numerous measures seen as tipping the scales in favor of the Israelis. He pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, relocated the US embassy in Israel from Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, closed a US diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and cut US aid to Palestinian refugees.
In turn, his administration has instead opted to pursue normalization deals between Israel and various nations in the Middle East and beyond. Last week, he hosted the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for their own normalization talks, during which he announced that Serbia would move its embassy to Jerusalem, and Kosovo would also soon become the latest Muslim-majority government to recognize Israel.
White House officials are also pursuing similar agreements between Israel and a number of other Arab states, including Bahrain, Oman, Sudan and Morocco, according to several administration officials, although the timing of potential agreements remains unknown.
None of the countries embarking on these new normalization agreements have ever been at war with Israel, although administration officials have asserted that they represent positive steps toward peace in the Middle East.
Early on, a number of reports suggested that the UAE would look to solidify its efforts to acquire new F-35 fighter jets as a concession to the agreement. The White House has since said that there is potential for a deal, although the timeline remains to be seen.
The UAE has wanted the signing ceremony to somehow involve a nod about the discussions of a possible sale of the F-35 to the UAE, but that topic is not expected to be an explicit part of the ceremony, one of the officials said. Instead those discussions will continue to happen alongside the normalization talks, but will not be formally enmeshed into next weeks’ event.
There remains significant bipartisan opposition to selling F-35s to the UAE due to concerns it would degrade Israel’s technological and tactical military advantage in the region. An attempt by the administration to forge ahead with a potential sale would likely be met with a resolution of disapproval from Congress, and one that possibly carries a veto-proof majority, according to multiple Republican and Democratic aides who recently spoke to CNN.
Multiple GOP aides also told CNN that the administration would not be able to use an emergency declaration to force the Hill’s hand on an F-35 sale as the production chain is so long that the first delivery would not happen for five to 10 years — which is well beyond the window of time allotted by such a declaration.