News Digest — 9/14/20

Netanyahu in Washington For Historic Peace Deal with UAE, Bahrain

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for the US Sunday evening (13th) to sign a historic deal with the United Arab Emirates at the White House on Tuesday (15th).

Adding to the excitement of his trip was the surprise announcement on Friday (11th) by another Gulf State, Bahrain, that it would normalize ties with Israel.

The ceremony will then be with both the UAE and Bahrain – a double billing. 

“We now have two historic peace agreements with two Arab countries within one month,” Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday (13th).

“I am sure that we all praise this new age… I want to promise you that each and every one of you through your ministries will be part of it, because this is going to be a different peace.  It will be a warm peace, an economic peace in addition to a diplomatic peace – peace between nations,” Netanyahu said.

The desire for full relations appears to be genuine on both sides.  Netanyahu has invited the president of the UAE to visit Israel.  According to reports, he has expressed interest in coming to Jerusalem.

The UAE deal appears to have broken the ice in a way that those with Egypt and Jordan did not.  Following the news about Bahrain, other countries are reportedly going to follow, including Oman and Sudan.  Oman sent a positive signal on its state TV channel, saying it welcomed the Bahrain initiative.

In addition, Kosovo announced it will move its embassy to Jerusalem, becoming the first Muslim-majority country to do so.

Morocco, while not ready for open ties, may agree to allow direct flights to and from Israel, it was reported on Sunday (13th) 



As Gulf States Sign Agreements With Israel, Palestinians Rage

Palestinians, as the old phrase goes, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  But they also never miss an opportunity to organize a ‘day of rage.’  They’ve called for three in the wake of agreements between Israel and the UAE, and Bahrain, announced Friday (11th).

“First we thought that the United Arab Emirates was the only country that stabbed us in the back,” a senior Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post.

“On Wednesday (9th) we saw how several other Arab countries betrayed the Palestinian people and the Palestinian issue.  This is a black day in the history of the Palestinians and Arabs,” he said.

From the Palestinian perspective, the news keeps getting worse as it was reported on Monday (14th) that Oman is expected to be the next Arab country joining the procession of nations making peace with Israel.

The Palestinians have lost sympathy and support among Arab countries.  Their terrorist methods, their support for Iran and the corruption of their leadership are reasons most often cited.

In Ramallah, images of the rulers of Bahrain and the UAE have been burned and the Palestinians have expressed anger and disappointment as they have been brushed-off by Arab countries.  Last week, The Arab League rejected a draft resolution condemning the Israel-UAE agreement.

It’s not known if the Palestinians will return to mass violence.  The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday (13th) that some Palestinians are interpreting the formation of a new group made up of representatives of different Palestinian factions as a call for a new Intifada.

In its first statement, the group, Unified National Leadership of Popular Resistance, called for a “comprehensive popular struggle that won’t end until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Meanwhile, the Israelis and Americans are celebrating their diplomatic triumphs.  An Israeli delegation left for the US on Sunday evening (13th) for a signing at the White House on Tuesday (15th).  UAE and Bahraini representatives will participate.

“On the way to bring peace for peace,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted shortly before takeoff.

On the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen said that “we’re working on other countries.  It depends on them and on us.  I very, very much hope so.”



Bahrain’s Jewish Community Praises Normalization Deal With Israel

Bahrain’s Jewish community reacted happily to the Friday (11th) announcement that their country would follow the UAE’s lead and normalize ties with Israel.

“On this historic occasion of furthering peace in the Middle East, and the joint statement by the United States, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel, we, the Bahraini Jewish community congratulate our leadership on this momentous occasion,” said its head, Ebrahim Dahood Nonoo, in a Saturday statement (12th) released by the Bahraini embassy in the UK.

“This is a historic moment that we never expected to see in our lifetime,” he added.  “We thank His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, for having the foresight to go ahead with this decision, and his belief in coexistence and his faith and ability to break down the barriers that restrict cohabitation.  We look forward to a prosperous relationship benefiting both countries.”

Nonoo said the Jewish community is well-integrated in the Sunni-led Gulf state, as “the only indigenous community in the Gulf.”

Jews have lived in Bahrain since the 1880s, with numbers reaching as high as 1,500.  After the State of Israel was declared in 1948 with its concomitant Arab backlash, most left over the years and today fewer than 40 are left in the community.

Even so, the Jewish presence is felt in the kingdom.  Nonoo himself served two terms in Bahrain’s parliament.  Another Nonoo, Houda, served as Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2013. She was selected for the important position even though she had no diplomatic experience.  As the first Jewish ambassador ever appointed by an Arab country, her nomination was widely considered a message to the West and Israel that the kingdom was a progressive and tolerant one.



US: Serbia To Designate Hezbollah Entirely As A Terror Organization

The United States on Sunday (13th) welcomed Serbia’s decision to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and called on the European Union to follow suit by making a similar declaration with regard to the group’s political arm.

Both Kosovo and Serbia committed to this action, as part of the US-brokered economic understanding between them signed at the White House earlier this month.  Kosovo had already done so, but Serbia had yet to take the step.”

Both Israel and the US have campaigned internationally urging countries to designate both wings of Hezbollah as terror groups.

The European Union has recognized Hezbollah’s military as a terror organization but has not made a similar statement with regard to Hezbollah’s political wing.  Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Great Britain have condemned the entire Hezbollah organization, and Serbia has now joined them, according to the US, in declaring both the political and military wing of Hezbollah as terror groups.

“We urge all countries in Europe and elsewhere to take whatever action they can to prevent Hezbollah operatives, recruiters, and financiers from operating on their territories,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“There is no doubt that the dominoes are falling on Hezbollah’s European operations, where it has continued to plot terrorist attacks, procure military technology, and raise much-needed funding,” Pompeo said.



With F-35 Sale To UAE On Horizon, Israel Assembles Team To Ensure It Keeps Military Edge

As the sale of the F-35 jets from the US to the UAE draws nearer, Israel assembled a committee of military and security experts to analyze how Israel can keep its qualitative military edge in the region, reported Israel Hayom on Sunday (13th).

The experts’ findings are to be presented as a list of requests to the American government.

Initial ideas of requests to the US include asking to purchase V-22 transport helicopters and a squadron of F-15 jets.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to raise  these requests with President Donald Trump during his visit to Washington to sign the UAE peace deal.

A report by Yediot Ahronot just days after the announcement of the Israel-UAE peace deal, revealed that the agreement included a clause giving the UAE permission to purchase advanced military technology, including F-35 fighter jets from the US.

Israel is particularly worried about the UAE purchasing F-35 fighter jets.  Currently, the Israeli Air Force is the only military in the Middle East which has these advanced aircraft with stealth capabilities.

Israel’s concerns are twofold, reported Israel Hayom.  First, neighboring countries obtaining advanced military technology could lead to an arms race, and Israel may lose its qualitative edge in the region.

Second, while the UAE currently has a stable government, regime change is always a possibility in the region.  While the likelihood is small, if the UAE government was overthrown by forces hostile to Israel, who would then gain possession of the F-35s?  The results could be devastating to the Jewish state.

A senior security official told Israel Hayom, “We now enjoy winds of peace, but we live in an unstable area where the wind direction may change rapidly.”

“Therefore we always make sure to be at least one step ahead of any other country in the area, and preferably more than that.”