Last week, Bahrain joined the UAE in normalizing relations with Israel in a formal signing ceremony on the White House lawn. Honduras vouched to move its embassy to Jerusalem by the end of this year. This will make Honduras the third country to have an embassy in Jerusalem, after the United States and Guatemala. Also last week, Armenia opened its embassy in Tel Aviv. These follow developments I reported on less than two weeks ago on the UAE and Kosovo normalizing relations with Israel, and news that Kosovo, Serbia, Chad, and Malawi will open embassies in Jerusalem.
The Trump administration could still see a few more victories on the road to Middle East peace before the U.S. presidential election in November. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that five more countries are considering normalizing relations with Israel, and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer stated that at least two more Arab countries will sign peace deals with Israel by the time Dermer’s term ends in January.
What are the recent developments, and from where could the next breakthrough be?
Israel and the UAE continued to develop their new relationship since my last article. The UAE will reportedly have its first official visit to Israel on Tuesday. The Israeli tourism minister has stated that he hopes Israel/UAE tourism can start early next year. Emirates Flight Catering signed a memorandum of understanding with CCL Holdings to provide kosher meals on Emirates flights. Emirates Flight Catering will create a production facility called Kosher Arabia to produce those meals starting in January. Dubai conglomerate Al Habtoor, which conducts business in real estate, hospitality, publishing, and other sectors, is planning on opening an office in Israel. Al Habtoor is also working on direct flights between Israel and the UAE via Israir. Israel and Dubai’s diamond exchanges have also signed an MOU of cooperation, and diamonds from Israel have now started being exported directly to Dubai.
Israel and Bahrain are also beginning to develop their new relationship. Israeli and Bahraini tourism ministers have spoke over the phone about future potential business, including joint Israel–UAE–Bahrain travel packages. Since the peace deal, Bahrain foiled an Iranian plot to attack diplomats and foreigners in Bahrain, according to Saudi state TV.
Following the Abraham Accords, there have been several positive developments suggesting that the Trump administration will continue to broker other normalization agreements with Israel.
Sudan. Sudan could agree to normalize relations with Israel “within days” if it, the U.S., and the UAE agree on an aid package. Sudan, the U.S., and the UAE are scheduled to hold a meeting in Abu Dhabi today, which Sudanese sources are calling “decisive.” In my last article on this issue, the U.S. and Sudan were reportedly far apart on the amount of an aid package to Sudan, with Sudan wanting $9 billion, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has offered $50 million. Now, Sudan may be coming down from its earlier request. In return for normalization with Israel, Sudan is now seeking $1.2 billion in oil and wheat, $2 billion in grant money, and three-year economic commitment from the U.S. and the UAE. Prime Minister Hamdok is reportedly now on board with normalization, and will support Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s push for normalization if Burhan is able to negotiate a satisfactory economic deal.
Oman. In recent days, both the Arab Weekly and Israel Hayom have reported that according to several unnamed Arab diplomatic sources, Oman could be the next country to normalize relations with Israel. Oman’s ambassador to the United States was present at the signing of the Abraham Accords, and Oman publicly supported the Israel–UAE and Israel–Bahrain deals.
Saudi Arabia. There have been positive movements in the development of normalization talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia. When asked if he believed that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia could occur “in the foreseeable future,” Israel’s Chief of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, stated, “I believe it could happen.” With a smile, Cohen stated that he would not comment on if he has met recently with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). President Trump stated that Israel–Saudi Arabia normalization would occur “at the right time.”
That said, there currently appears to be a split between MBS, who favors normalization, and his father King Salman, who opposes it. MBS reportedly kept the emerging Israel–UAE and Israel–Bahrain deals from his father out of concerns that Salman would move against them. Upon finding out about the deals, Salman was reportedly angry at MBS. However, Salman’s continued fixation on a Palestinian state, one of the reasons why he opposes normalization at this time, should be taken with a grain of salt: despite Bahrain and the UAE stressing the importance of a two-state solution, the normalization documents do not explicitly mention it, nor do they mention the “settlements” in Judea and Samaria.
Qatar. Last week, the U.S. and Qatar released a Joint Statement of the Third U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue. In this joint statement, both parties state that they discussed “prospects for a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as outlined in the U.S. Vision for Peace.” While not an endorsement of normalization, Qatar’s nod to Trump’s peace plan could signal that Qatar may be open to a deal with Israel, and both sources within the State Department and the Palestinian Authority believe that this is the case. The joint statement also stated support for “a strong and united Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) focused on promoting a peaceful and prosperous future for all in the region and on countering regional threats.” This may indicate Qatar’s willingness to resolve its ongoing diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt, which could bode well for Qatar–Israeli normalization prospects.
Morocco. The future of normalization between Israel and Morocco remains murky. Reports that Morocco and Israel would establish direct flights were denied a day later by “an authorized diplomatic source from Morocco’s government.” At this time, it is unclear if Morocco is still considering normalization in exchange for U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Kuwait. While President Trump stated that Kuwait might soon reach a normalization agreement with Israel, little is known publicly that would either support or refute this claim. Last week, President Trump awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait. In a press release, the White House thanked the Emir for being a “a truly unwavering friend and partner to the United States,” and that the Emir’s “tireless mediation of disputes in the Middle East has bridged divides under the most challenging circumstances.”
While the U.S. might be able to secure more diplomatic breakthroughs in the aftermath of the Abraham Accords, it is highly unlikely that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will change course at least in the short term. True to form, the PA is rejecting Bahrain’s addition to the Abraham Accords, just as the PA rejected UAE’s participation at the outset. PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated that the Israel–Bahrain deal was a “betrayal of the Palestinians and Jerusalem.” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the signing of the Abraham Accords “a black day in the history of the Arab nation.” Fatah posted on its official Facebook page a video of Bahraini children reciting a poem that includes the words “Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs.” Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam Al-Ahmad asked the people of UAE and Bahrain to “not destroy yourselves and the future of the entire Arab nation” and that the Abraham Accords were part of “the Zionist territorial designs from the Nile to the Euphrates.”
It looks like the Trump administration can still broker more peace deals with Israel, and the PA will continue to miss out due to its failure to get on board.