As dignitaries gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday to witness the chant of the US-brokered agreements between Israel and two Gulf Arab states, the situation thousands of miles outside Israel’s doorstep was less serene.
About 15 rockets were launched from Gaza into southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said, prompting the country’s air force to retaliate by hitting targets in the Palestinian enclave.
The signing of the accords was met with angry protests from Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Photos of President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have been trampled on and flags set on fire. Other protests were underway on Friday.
Speaking from a balcony of the White House, Trump declared the accords “the dawn of a new Middle East” and said that at least five or six other Arab states were on the verge of joining the “Accords. of Abraham ”.
But although Trump described the deals as peace deals, the Palestinians’ reaction was a stark reminder that the deals are not seen as such by many in the region.
The pacts have been criticized by Iran, Turkey and Qatar. The Gulf’s biggest power, Saudi Arabia, has remained silent, suggesting that the kingdom quietly approves the deals but is reluctant to openly support them.
The bilateral agreements themselves are full of commitments to advance diplomacy, mutual cooperation and work for regional peace. The agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is more comprehensive and outlines 15 areas of mutual interest, including finance, trade, aviation, energy, health, agriculture and water.
But critics argue they fail to fully address one of the Middle East’s central flaws: the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who see the pacts as a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state.
“The Palestinians have been completely thrown under the bus here,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank.
“The real peace that is needed, the one that is truly worth celebrating, is if there is anything that can be achieved between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said.
Parsi added that far from establishing peace, the agreements simply highlighted the existing “clandestine relations” between the countries.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and the stories that matter, delivered on weekday mornings.
The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel’s already thawed relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in accordance with their common enemy, Iran.
“I am not surprised that Palestinian terrorists shot at Israel precisely during this historic ceremony,” Netanyahu said after the ceremony. “They want to bring peace. In this, they will not succeed. “
Speaking to Fox News hours before the signing ceremony, Trump predicted that the Palestinians would eventually forge peace with Israel or be “left behind.”
But the Palestinians say that there can be no resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unless they are involved.
“The heart of the conflict is the Palestinian cause. These agreements will never achieve security, stability or peace, ”Ahmad Majdalani, member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told reporters on Thursday.
“This illusion Netanyahu has of making peace with the Arabs without making peace with the Palestinians or withdrawing from the occupied territories is just that – an illusion. “
Download the NBC News app for the latest news and politics
Representatives from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who sent their foreign ministers rather than heads of state, spoke about the importance of creating a Palestinian state. But neither Netanyahu nor Trump mentioned the Palestinians in their remarks.
Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan thanked Netanyahu for “stopping the annexation” of West Bank lands claimed by Palestinians in return for Emirati recognition.
Netanyahu, however, insisted that Israel had only “suspended” its plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
In January, the United States abandoned a position it had held for four decades that Jewish settlements in the West Bank were incompatible with international law.
“This is the first warm peace the Israelis have had,” Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told NBC News. “In Israel, almost everyone is happy with the deal. “
He said the agreements Israel had already made with Jordan and Egypt had not led to tangible trade, tourism or meaningful free movement of people or businesses. He said he hoped it would be possible with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
He said the agreements showed that the Palestinians had been “clearly set aside” by Arab states and warned that their ambitions could be unrealistic.
“In my opinion, they need to calibrate their expectations on what can be achieved,” said Inbar. “It’s part of maturity. Sadly, the Palestinian national liberation movement still has dreams that are unlikely to come true. “
In August, the first direct commercial flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates took place with Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner on board. Since Tuesday’s ceremony, deals have already been reached between diamond exchanges, port operators and investment offices in the two countries, although friction remains around the US sale of fighter jets. stealth F-35s in the United Arab Emirates.
“The agreement is more symbolic than the reflection of a fundamental change. This is the latest indicator of a shift in Arab policy from a definition against Israel to a definition against Iran, ”said Simon Mabon, professor at Lancaster University in England.
Inbar agreed that calling the agreements a revolutionary peace agreement would be “an exaggeration.”
“Some Arab countries have come out of the closet,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the messiah has come to the Middle East, not yet. “
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.