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Israel's accords with Bahrain and the UAE are a historic moment for Middle East peace

Trump, Netanyahu and representatives of Bahrain and the UAE
Trump, Netanyahu and representatives of Bahrain and the UAE Credit:  SAUL LOEB/ AFP

The salvo of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza was the depressing, if predictable, response of Hamas to the latest peace efforts in the region. The attacks came as two Gulf states, the UAE and Bahrain, signed agreements at the White House fully normalising their relations with Israel. They follow Jordan (1979) and Egypt (1994) among Arab nations to have opened links. The attacks prompted a response from the Israeli Air Force, targeting Hamas positions inside the Palestinian enclave. And so the cycle continues.

Yet the peace accords signed in Washington suggest that it may be running its course and that Hamas’s response is a desperate attempt to stop it in its tracks. Donald Trump has achieved what many of his predecessors failed to do, which is persuade other Arab nations that a rapprochement with Israel offers the only long-term chance of ending the cycle. The great difficulty is persuading the Palestinians. Many took to the streets to burn images of the leaders of the two Arab states in protest.

The deals reflect the bigger geo-political and sectarian confrontations in the region, with Sunni states like the UAE and Bahrain more concerned about the threat from Iran. All eyes are now on Saudi Arabia to see if Riyadh will follow the lead of its Sunni satellites. But even if President Trump’s prediction of a “new dawn” in the Middle East is somewhat premature, the signs are encouraging and mark a signal foreign policy success for the president just a few weeks before the election.

With Israel now a global leader in innovation and tech start-ups, most people in the Middle East, and especially young, entrepreneurial Palestinians, want the sort of prosperity they see there and in the West. Only peace and stability can provide it.