Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House next week

Politics
Meir Ben-Shabbat

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, center left, elbow bumps with an Emirati official as he leaves Abu Dhabi, Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel and the United Arab Emirates will signtheir historic deal normalizing relations at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15, officials said Tuesday.

Senior delegations from the two countries will be led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince. U.S. officials, who were not authorized 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 weather.

Late Tuesday, Netanyahu tweeted he “was proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House” to sign the deal with the UAE.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency acknowledged Sheikh Abdullah would lead the Emirati delegation to the signing. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s day-to-day ruler named in the joint announcement of the U.S.-brokered deal, apparently will not attend.

Sheikh Mohammed has not traveled to the U.S. since being named tangentially in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on President Donald Trump and Russian interference in America’s 2016 election. His inclusion stemmed from his mysterious role in a 2017 meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian middleman for Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles.

The UAE-Israel ceremony will come just a month after the agreement to establish full diplomatic relations was announced on Aug. 13. The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to Trump as he seeks reelection, and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

That announcement was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countriesand the establishment of telephone links.

The UAE also announced the end of 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 tech start-ups.

The Palestinians have rejected the deal as trading away one of the few cards they have in moribund peace talks with Israel to establish its own independent state — the Arab boycott of Israel. The UAE presented the agreement as taking Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank off the table. But Netanyahu insisted the pause was “temporary.”

Abu Dhabi also hopes the deal will allow it to purchase advanced American weaponry, like the F-35 stealth fighter jet.

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show the name of the Emirates foreign minister is Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, not Mohammed bin Zayad.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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