WASHINGTON - Hoping to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of November's election, President Donald Trump on Tuesday will host representatives of the Persian Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain along with Israel to sign what the administration officials describe as agreements of mutual recognition.
The UAE and Bahrain would become only the third and fourth Arab countries to formally open ties with Israel, a country most Middle Eastern nations have long refused to recognize, in part for its failure to resolve the conflict with Palestinians.
White House officials were planning an elaborately choreographed ceremony, describing the agreements as major "peace treaties," even though Israel is not at war with either country and already enjoys business and security ties, albeit discreetly, with both Arab countries.
Copies of the agreements have not yet been released, so it remains difficult to discern what the agreements say and whether they are binding. A senior administration official said no documents would be released until after the ceremony.
Officials in the home countries cast some doubt on the significance of the agreements to be signed. Even senior Israeli officials were not told what the documents contain, creating a storm of controversy there.
Israel will be represented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while the UAE and Bahrain delegations will be led by the countries' foreign ministers.
Like Trump, Netanyahu badly needs a political boost. The embattled prime minister faces criminal corruption charges, an economy buckling under the pressure of coronavirus-related slowdowns and a swelling protest movement demanding his resignation.
"Diplomatic sleight of hand can't absolve Netanyahu of the domestic omni-shambles," said Gershom Gorenberg, a prominent Israeli historian and author.
The UAE on Aug. 13 announced it was agreeing to work on normalizing relations with Israel. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to sell the UAE F-35 stealth fighter jets, and Israel would agree to temporarily suspend plans to annex part of the occupied West Bank land that Palestinians claim for their state.
The Trump administration has not disclosed what concessions, if any, were granted to Bahrain for its agreement.