From left to right, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump and United Arab Emirates' Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan participate in the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Leaders from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates formally normalized relations with Israel during a historic signing ceremony Tuesday at the White House.
About 200 people watched from the South Lawn as the four leaders -- including U.S. President Donald Trump -- signed the documents declaring peace and normalizing relations after decades of conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al Zayani each signed the documents on behalf of their countries.
"We're here this afternoon to change the course of history," Trump said, speaking from the balcony of the White House. It's "a major stride in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity."
"The people of the Middle East will no longer allow hatred of Israel to be fomented as an excuse for radicalism or extremism," he added.
The United States, led by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, helped broker the deals, an indication of a geopolitical shift in the Middle East. Speaking with Netanyahu in the Oval Office before the signing ceremony, Trump expressed hope that more Arab countries would move to normalize relations with Israel.
"We'll have at least five or six countries coming along very quickly," he told reporters.
Under the agreement, Israel agreed to temporarily suspend plans to annex occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank. Trump said last week that Bahrain had also reached a diplomatic deal with Israel.
Palestinian leaders have condemned both deals. A protest rally was held in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, to oppose Tuesday's signing. Other demonstrations were held in Tulkarem, Nablus, Jericho, Jenin, Bethlehem, Gaza City and Hebron.
The United Palestinian Leadership for Popular Resistance called for "a day of popular uprising."
Protesters burned images of Trump and called for the cancellation of the deals.
Israeli forces clashed with protesters in Hebron, Middle East Eye reported.
Fahmy Shaheed, the representative of National and Islamic Forces in Hebron, told the MEE that there's been nearly daily confrontations between Palestinians, and Israeli residents and forces there.
"We are expressing our rejection of normalization because it is happening at the expense of the rights and sacrifices of the Palestinian people," Shaheen said.
"We are not betting on Arab regimes that are trading in the aspirations of their peoples and our Palestinian cause. We only bet on the Arab people who are united [in their belief] that Palestine is a central cause."
Critics have called the UAE-Israel deal a "stab in the back" for Palestinians and a violation of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which calls for no relations with Israel until there's an independent Palestinian state and Jerusalem ends occupation in Palestinian territories.
Trump said Tuesday the UAE and Bahrain agreements are part of a larger diplomatic effort to pressure the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table.
"The ultimate piece is it's good for us to have, and it's good for Israel," he said. "The Palestinians are very difficult to deal with."