Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Abraham Accord: Emirati and Israeli officials tread on ground shaped by Middle East history of bloodshed and peace

The White House ceremony of the historic deal will be 42 years after Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (2nd R) and Jordan's King Hussein (2nd L) are directed where to sign by unidentified aides as US President Bill Clinton (C) looks on during ceremonies at the White House in Washington, on July 25, 1994. - Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein signed a declaration of peace designed to end 46 years of hostility between their countries. (Photo by Paul J. RICHARDS / AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (2nd R) and Jordan's King Hussein (2nd L) are directed where to sign by unidentified aides as US President Bill Clinton (C) looks on during ceremonies at the White House in Washington, on July 25, 1994. - Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein signed a declaration of peace designed to end 46 years of hostility between their countries. (Photo by Paul J. RICHARDS / AFP)

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Benjamin Netanyahu will sign the Abraham Accord on Tuesday, almost 42 years to the day since the first Arab-Israeli peace deal was formally concluded at the White House.

It will be a ceremony steeped in history and although the agreement is bilateral, the shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of the most intractable in modern history, is not far away.

US officials say the signing will be at the Rose Garden, South Lawn, or indoors, where Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin shook hands after signing the Camp David Accords under Jimmy Carter’s supervision on September 17, 1978.

Sheikh Abdullah, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, has been in Washington since Sunday, a day ahead of Mr Netanyahu, to sign the agreement.

The accord was announced in mid-August, after a call between Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Mr Trump, and Mr Netanyahu.

In exchange for normal ties with the UAE, Israel agreed to halt annexation of Palestinian territories, and the two countries have started to establish co-operation in a number of fields.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told a meeting of the Arab League last week that the UAE exercised its sovereign right in signing the Abraham Accord.

But he said the deal was “an achievement and an important step" towards Middle East peace, while reaffirming UAE support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“The deal has created a chance that we firmly believe must be seized and built on,” Dr Gargash said.

Four decades ago, Egypt’s President Sadat faced internal opposition to his peace moves with Israel.

He visited Jerusalem in November 1977, as the Egyptian economy reeled under mismanagement and Soviet-style policies.

The Camp David Accords led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979 and the restoration to Egypt of the whole Sinai Peninsula, lost in the 1967 war to Israel.

Egypt also became one of the largest recipients of US aid.

But Sadat tried to appease the Muslim Brotherhood in 1980 by making Sharia the principal source of Egyptian legislation, through a constitutional amendment.

A year later, Khalid Al Islambuli, an officer and a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a Brotherhood offshoot, killed Sadat at a military parade in Cairo.

Among those arrested in connection with the Sadat assassination was Ayman Al Zawahiri, the current head of Al Qaeda.

Externally, Sadat was condemned by the so-called Steadfastness and Confrontation Front, composed of the PLO, Libya, Algeria, South Yemen and Syria.

Syria and Egypt jointly launched the failed 1973 war against Israel but Hafez Al Assad and Sadat despised each other.

Sadat publicly denounced Alawite domination over Syria after Syrian state media criticised him for making peace with Israel.

But Sadat framed peace with Israel in terms of restoring Palestinian rights.

It will always be debated whether the Palestinians would have been better off had the PLO not opposed Camp David and responded to Sadat’s call to make peace with Israel at that time.

Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton shook hands at the South Lawn of the White House in front of Bill Clinton at the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, which the Palestinians negotiated without any other Arab state’s involvement.

The Oslo Accords prompted Jordan to accelerate its negotiations with Israel and the two countries signed the Wadi Araba Accord in the Jordan Valley in 1994.

The UAE will be the third Arab nation out of the 22-member Arab League to enter into an official state of peace with Israel after Egypt and Jordan, and will followed by Bahrain, which announced last week that it was establishing ties with Israel.

When Sadat and Begin were at the White House in 1978, Mr Netanyahu was running a counter-terrorism centre named after his brother, Jonathan, an Israeli commando killed in an operation to rescue Israeli hostages in Uganda.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed was months away from joining the military as the Emirates rulers embarked on a process of modernisation that turned the UAE into an economic centre and a regional political player.

Updated: September 15, 2020 01:42 AM

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