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

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - 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 , Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Mr , and Mr Netanyahu.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, centre right, and the US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, centre left, pose for a photo with UAE Air Force's Maj Gen Falah Al Qahtani,, and other officials at Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi. Reuters

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Twitter/ @USAinUAE

Senior adviser to the US president Jared Kushner being shown a replica of the Abrahamic Family House at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Twitter/ @USAinUAE

Senior advisor to the US president Jared Kushner at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Twitter/ @USAinUAE

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat greets an Emirati official as he makes his way to board the plane to leave Abu Dhabi. EPA

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien during a visit to Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi. Reuters

Senior advisor to the US president Jared Kushner at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Twitter/ @USAinUAE

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash and head of Israel's National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat. Twitter/ @USAinUAE

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash hold a meeting in Abu Dhabi. Reuters

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, right, with Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, left, arrive in the UAE on the first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE. Victor Besa / The National

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks as US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien looks on. Victor Besa / The National

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, centre, and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, on the tarmac after disembarking from the El Al flight. Victor Besa / The National

Head of Israel's National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat delivers a speech upon his arrival. AFP

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien delivers a speech upon arrival in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, right, delivers a speech as Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and White House adviser Jared Kushner look on. Victor Besa / The National

US-Israeli delegation led by White House adviser Jared Kushner arrive in Abu Dhabi on the first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE. Victor Besa / The National

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat disembark a plane after landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Reuters

US and Israeli flags at Abu Dhabi airport. Victor Besa / The National

A UAE official waits for Israeli and US delegates to disembark the Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner after landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Reuters

Senior White House adviserJared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien speak to the media in an El Al airplane. AFP

Reporters, Israeli and US delegates travelling on an Israeli El Al airliner prepare to disembark on arrival in Abu Dhabi. AP

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and US President's senior adviser Jared Kushner are seated during Israeli flag carrier El Al's flight LY971, from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. EPA

An official greeting message is seen on the Israeli carrier El Al airliner carrying Israeli and US delegates during their flight to Abu Dhabi. Reuters

The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner lands at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Victor Besa / The National

The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner lands at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Victor Besa / The National

The Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner approaches to land in Abu Dhabi. Reuters

A view of the scenery through the window of Israeli flag carrier El Al's flight LY971, as it is approaching for landing at the airport of Abu Dhabi. EPA

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, left, Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, right, and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, board the El Al flight to Abu Dhabi. EPA

The US-Israel delegation board the plane. EPA

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien pose with members of the US-Israel delegation before boarding the El Al's flight. AP

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, right, looks on as US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien speaks before boarding the El Al's flight. AP

The Arabic, English and Hebrew word for 'Peace' is seen on the Israeli flag carrier El Al's airliner which carried Israel-US delegations to meet Emirati leadership in Abu Dhabi. AP

A seat covering says 'Making History' in Arabic, English and Hebrew. Reuters

A flight crew member stands in front of the El Al jet. AP

Flight crew hold a meeting before the historic flight. Reuters

A pilot goes through pre-flight checks. Reuters

Screens displaying flight number LY971 to Abu Dhabi at Tel Aviv airport. Reuters

Screens displaying flight number LY971 to Abu Dhabi at Tel Aviv airport. Reuters

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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