WASHINGTON (AP) – Declaring « the dawn of a new Middle East, » President Donald Trump on Tuesday spearheaded the signing of historic diplomatic pacts between Israel and two Arab nations, which are expected to lead to a realignment of the region and project the President as a peacemaker at the height of his campaign for reelection.

Hundreds of people gathered on the sunny South Lawn of the White House to witness Israel signing agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of the already unfrozen relations of the Jewish state with the two Arab nations, in line with their common rejection of Iran and its aggressions in the region.

« We are here this afternoon to change the course of history, » Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. « After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East. »

The agreements do not address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has lasted for decades. Although the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other Arab countries support the Palestinians, the Trump administration has persuaded the two countries not to let that conflict prevent them from having normal relations with Israel.

Trump’s political allies hope the deals will enhance Trump’s credentials as a peacemaker as he campaigns for re-election, seven weeks before the election.

So far, foreign policy has not played a major role in a campaign dominated by issues like the coronavirus, racism and the economy. Despite the pandemic, there was no social distancing at the White House ceremony and most of the guests did not wear masks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the accords before the crowd, which included representatives from allied nations of the Washington-based diplomatic corps, but few other dignitaries from abroad. Some Democratic congressmen who quietly supported the agreements were invited.

In addition to the individual bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the three signed a trilateral document, dubbed the « Abrahamic Accords » in honor of the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. Trump signed as a witness.

« This day is a milestone in history, » Netanyahu said. « Heralds a new dawn of peace. »


Associated Press journalists Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.