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President Trump presided over U.S.-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates at the White House on Tuesday, cementing formal diplomatic ties between the countries through deals with few public details.

Why it matters: "The last Arab state to make peace with Israel was Jordan, in 1994. Egypt was the first, in 1979. The agreement is also significant for relegating the Palestinians to the sidelines," WashPost reports.

What they're saying: “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said on the White House South Lawn. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East."

  • Netanyahu: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President, this day is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have prayed for peace. For decades, the Jewish state has prayed for peace. ... To all of Israel's friends in the Middle East, those who are with us today and those who will join us tomorrow, I say, Salaam aleichem. Peace unto thee. Shalom!"
  • UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thank you for choosing peace and for halting annexation of Palestinian territories. That position reinforces our shared goal to achieve better future for generations to come."
  • Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al Zayani: "The declaration supporting peace between the kingdom of Bahrain and the state of Israel is an historic step on the road to genuine and lasting peace, security and prosperity across the region and for all who live there regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity or ideology."

Between the lines: There were three documents signed today, reflecting the multiple parties in the room, reports Barak Ravid.

  1. The “Abraham accords declaration” was signed by Trump, Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain. It focuses on the intentions of all the parties to promote peace in the region.
  2. A "peace declaration” between Israel and Bahrain – a general document short of an agreement which will include a commitment by both parties to draft a peace treaty.
  3. The Israel-UAE peace treaty. The treaty will come into force only after a vote in the Israeli cabinet and in the Israeli Knesset.

Go deeper: UAE minister says Israel agreement will include two-state solution reference

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Scoop: Azerbaijan seeks to mediate between Turkey and Israel

Aliyev (L) with Erdoğan in 2018. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty

Turkey and Israel both played key roles in Azerbaijan's recent victory over Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, several weeks after the ceasefire, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev is trying to mend relations between his two allies, senior Israeli officials tell me.

The big picture: Drones and other weapons systems from both Turkey and Israel helped Azerbaijan gain military superiority over Armenia. But relations between Turkey and Israel have been frozen for most of the past decade.

Dec 22, 2020 - World

Israel's government collapses, with yet another election due in March

Netanyahu at an election rally in 2019. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel’s power-sharing government collapsed on Tuesday, only seven months after it was formed, putting Israel on course for its fourth elections in two years.

Why it matters: The government was formed by two rivals — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz — to end a political stalemate, but it was totally dysfunctional. Its collapse means Gantz will not rotate in as prime minister next November, as the two had agreed in their coalition deal.

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Scoop: Israel tries to use Milley as conduit to Biden on Iran

Milley in a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty

Israel used the recent visit by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to pass on several messages to the incoming Biden administration regarding Iran and other regional developments, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel is very concerned about President-elect Biden's plans on Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal, but has yet to open direct contacts with the incoming administration. Milley is a potential bridge to Biden's White House because he is expected to stay on beyond the transition.

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