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President Trump Announces DeaI Between Israel And UAE


The Trump administration is touting some good news out of the Middle East. Israel and the United Arab Emirates are normalizing ties. The two have worked together behind the scenes, but making this relationship public is important for Israel. Israel dropped controversial plans to annex parts of the West Bank to get there, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: President Trump announced the deal after a call with, as he put it, two friends of his - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas, including tourism, education, health care, trade and security.

KELEMEN: His national security adviser went so far to say that Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for this. Even though these two countries have been working together quietly for years, Trump says he wanted the deal named for him but instead settled on the Abraham Accord for the father of the three monotheistic religions.


TRUMP: Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates' lead. And I want to just thank them for being - it's not surprising - knowing Mohammed so well, it's not surprising they are in that lead position and normalize relations with Israel.

KELEMEN: Emirati officials are praising the deal but bill it as an agreement to stop a ticking time bomb that was threatening the possibility of a Palestinian state; that is, the Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, a threatened unilateral move that drew international condemnation. But a former legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority, Diana Buttu, says she was hoping the UAE would wait to recognize Israel until there's a Palestinian state.

DIANA BUTTU: But instead, they've turned around and stabbed us in the back under this fig leaf that somehow they are the ones that are stopping Israel's annexation, which they're not.

KELEMEN: Palestinian officials have refused to meet with the Trump administration after the U.S. took a series of pro-Israel moves. Palestinians reject the president's so-called vision for peace. The lead author of that report, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, describes the criticism coming from Palestinians today as, quote, "fairly predictable."


JARED KUSHNER: Look, I think that a lot of people in the region are seeing that we can't wait for the Palestinian leadership to try and resolve this. Every country is going to do what's in their best interests, what's in the region's best interest.

KELEMEN: Kushner says the UAE is joining a very exclusive club, becoming one of America's closest allies in the region. Buttu says this is mostly about Iran.

BUTTU: I think at the end of the day, the UAE is concerned with Iran, and because of their concern with Iran, as the saying goes, my enemy's enemy is my friend. And so Palestinians are the ones who are paying the price for this.

KELEMEN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried for years to keep the region focused on Iran rather than Palestinian aspirations for a state.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I've always believed that we could establish peace with the Arab world, and I've been working towards that lofty goal for decades.

KELEMEN: The UAE has been more public than other large Arab states when it comes to its dealings with Israel. Now it's making that formal.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.