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Saudi press celebrates Israel-UAE-Bahrain normalisation agreement

Saudi newspapers praised normalisation despite a muted response from the kingdom's leaders [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 September, 2020

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Saudi Arabia's state-controlled media erupted in celebration of the normalisation agreement signing ceremony between Israel, UAE and Bahrain, with front page headlines such as: 'Salam... Shalom... Peace!'
Saudi Arabia's leading newspapers on Wednesday dedicated celebratory front pages to the normalisation agreement between Israel, UAE and Bahrain following Tuesday's signing ceremony at the White House.

The articles in the heavily state-controlled press came despite muted reactions to the agreement from the kingdom's leaders.

Arab News, an English-language daily published in Riyadh, led with the front page headline: "Salam... Shalom... Peace!" and a large photo of the dignitaries signing papers outside the White House.

The gushing article covering the signing ceremony, concluded with the words: "They signed the Accord. The crowd applauded. History was made."
The paper was among several outlets to praise the normalisation agreement as a "peace deal".

Critics have labelled the agreements as a public relations exercise for US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and leaders of Gulf countries which helps to perpetuate Israel's occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza.

None of the four governments involved have divulged any  details of the accord, although Israeli media published a leaked version on Wednesday. 

Despite 
claims from the UAE last month that the normalisation pact would pause Israel's plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, information published in the media indictate that there was no agreement regarding this.

The Arabic-language Saudi newspaper Okaz also celebrated the run-up to the signing on Tuesday with the headline: "Writing a history of peace".

Okaz quoted part of Donald Trump's speech, in which he said that the agreement heralds a "new dawn for the Middle East."

Al-Riyadh carried a statement by Saudi King Salman on its front page, emphasising the kingdom's "steadfast" support for the Palestinian cause. In the article below, it reported on the signing ceremony, highlighting UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed's quote that the agreement "will help the Palestinians".

In an article titled "The choice of peace", the Al-Riyadh newspaper laid out Bahrain's motives behind joining the agreement, including finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as economic, security, military and technological benefits. It also highlighted the "constant threat" of Iran to Manama and Abu Dhabi.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat led with the headline "The Gulf and Israel... The fall of the wall," while highlighting Trump's statement that a number of Arab countries will follow suit in normalising relations with Israel.

Asked during the ceremony if he expected Saudi Arabia to establish relations with Israel, Trump said "I do. I spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia," adding it would come "at the right time."

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, is unlikely to make a similar deal with Israel immediately, as doing so without a resolution to the Palestinian issue would be seen as a betrayal of the cause and hurt its image as a leader of the Muslim world.

Reports have suggested that Saudi officials are publicly remaining silent over the UAE and Bahrain's normalization agreements as a concession to Trump after he exerted enormous pressure on Riyadh to form diplomatic ties with Israel.

Analysts have said that Saudi Arabia does not feel a pressing need to fully normalise relations after having cultivated covert ties with Israel, which it views as a bulwark against its regional rival Iran, even as it has voiced steadfast support for an independent Palestinian state.


Demonstrations erupted across the occupied Palestinian territories on Tuesday, calling the normalisation agreement a "deal of shame".

Banners were displayed at the protests, reading "Treason" and "No to normalisation with the [Israeli] occupier".

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign called the ceremony a "photo-op" that "won’t lead to peace or justice".

"It’s a cynical deal by corrupt, fanatic Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini and US rulers to sustain their brutal repression and rights violations."

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