US President Donald Trump will hold a September 15 signing ceremony for the Middle East agreement normalising relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, according to reports citing senior US officials.
The officials said senior delegations from both countries will likely be led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of the UAE crown prince.
Netanyahu confirmed his participation on Twitter, with the Israeli leader saying he is “proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House on the establishment of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
"I am proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House on the establishment of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates."
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 8, 2020
The officials, who were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ceremony would either be on the South Lawn, the Rose Garden or inside depending on the weather.
As part of the deal, announced at the White House on August 13 following what officials said were 18 months of talks, the Gulf state agreed to normal relations with Israel, while Israel agreed to continue with plans to suspend its annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.
The deal has come under fire from Palestinians and their regional allies, who claim it endangers the Palestinian position in stalled negotiations that are meant to lead to an independent state for the occupied people.
Normalisation without further concessions from Israelis, who have long been criticised for land grabs in the West Bank, amounts to international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over these areas, they claim.
The UAE presented the agreement as taking Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank off the table. But Israel’s Netanyahu insisted the pause was “temporary”.
Palestinian officials have also warned that should Arab-majority nations recognise Israel, it could signal widespread acceptance of the status quo. Serbia recently announced it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Palestinians view as the capital of their future state.
Saab Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, slammed Serbia’s decision to move its embassy, saying it makes “Palestine a victim” of Trump’s re-election hopes.
“Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace … to achieve his re-election” in November, Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said on Twitter.
Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace and a rules-based world order, to achieve his re-election. This, just like the UAE-Israel agreement, isn’t about Middle East Peace.
— Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات (@ErakatSaeb) September 4, 2020
But the Trump administration has showcased the agreement as a major achievement in diplomatic affairs.
The August 13 announcement has been followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, the establishment of telephone links and commitments to cooperate in numerous areas. Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, was onboard the flight.
The UAE has also ended its boycott of Israel, which allows trade and commerce between the oil-rich Emirates and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and technology start-ups.