Israel normalized its relations with two Arab states – Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – last Tuesday in ceremonies held at the White House in Washington, DC, United States. They are the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
“After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” US President Donald Trump said as the accords were signed by Iraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatiff al-Zatani, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdllah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
The White House ceremonies recalled a similar peace agreement signed in September, 1993, when then President Bill Clinton presided over a signing ceremony between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) foreign policy official Mahmoud Abbas. However, that agreement somehow failed to lead to an end to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute which continues to this day.
Arab hostility to the Jews has ancient beginnings. The Bible tells of the Israelites taking Canaan west of the Jordan river, a land promised them by the Lord God of Israel. In modern times, Jews and Arabs fought over the territory as the British began to pull out. On May 14, 1948, when the State of Israel was proclaimed, five Arab nations attacked in support of the Palestinians. The Israelis fought off the Arab armies and even seized substantial territory originally allocated to the Arabs in the 1947 United Nations partition of Palestine.
The Philippines has had a significant role in Israel’s modern history. When the Nazis began their program of killing the Jews in the Holocaust in World War II, President Manuel Quezon opened lands in Manila and Mindanao where they could live in peace. Seven years later, the Philippines, then led by President Manuel Roxas, cast the tie-breaking vote in the United Nations that led to the establishment of Israel as a state. There is today an “Open Doors” monument at the Holocaust Memorial Park in the town of Rishon LeZion in Israel commemorating the friendship between Filipinos and the Jewish people.
We thus welcome the recent signing of peace agreements between Israel and the Arab states of Bahrain and UAE. President Trump said Israel will soon be entering into similar agreements with nine other countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
The agreements are expected to help Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE in their efforts to rebuild their economies in the sake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a big step for peace in the region as two more Arab states ended their hostility to the Jewish state in this region which has seen so much confrontation and fighting over the centuries.
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