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Bahrain Will Normalize Relations With Israel, Trump Says

Still, Democrats and Middle East analysts in Washington questioned the administration’s self-congratulatory tone given that Israel’s relations with the Gulf’s Sunni Arab nations have been warming for years, driven by a common animus toward Shiite Iran.

“This latest agreement by itself is an encouraging sign of progress in a region that has been racked with conflict and civil wars,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow and Middle East expert at the liberal Center for American Progress. “But it’s hard to credit the Trump administration with this deal.”

The agreement was brokered in large part by Mr. Kushner, who has led the administration’s effort to strike a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. That project has largely been on pause since the administration’s release in January of a peace plan heavily slanted in Israel’s favor that analysts called unacceptable to the Palestinians.

Since then, Mr. Kushner and other Trump officials have turned their energies toward Israel’s relations with other Arab countries, partly as a means of showing the Palestinians that their demands would no longer dictate the region’s wider dynamics.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr. Kushner said Bahrain’s move would “separate the Palestinian issue from their own national interests, from their foreign policy, which should be focused on their domestic priorities.”

Bahrain’s decision was proof that the Arab world was abandoning the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, a proposal endorsed by the Arab League that called on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war in return for normal relations with Arab and Islamic countries, Palestinian analysts said.

“The Arab position that demands the establishment of an independent Palestinian state before normalizing with Israel is collapsing,” said Jehad Harb, an analyst of Palestinian politics who is based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “The Bahraini move is an affirmation of this new reality.”

Asked whether the United States or Israel had made any concessions to Bahrain in exchange for the agreement, Mr. Kushner did not respond directly. He said that officials from Bahrain would join a ceremony at the White House scheduled for Tuesday to sign the deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Michael Crowley reported from Washington, and David Halbfinger from Jerusalem. Adam Rasgon contributed reporting from Tel Aviv, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

Source: NYT > World News

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