Five more countries are seriously considering peace deals with Israel, the White House has announced, as a close confidant to the King of Bahrain claimed Gulf states now regard the Jewish state as their most important ally in the region.
Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, told reporters on Air Force One that five countries hoped to follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in normalising their relations with Israel, but did not name them.
He was likely referring to Oman and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf region, while there is also intense speculation that Sudan in North Africa is close to taking that historic step.
It came as a special advisor to the King of Bahrain said in an interview with the Telegraph that the Gulf states believe Israel could be better suited than Washington in helping them achieve their regional goals.
"I think perhaps there is the beginning of a reduction in the dependency on the US and a shift over to Israel now," said Marc Schneier, who was appointed to the role in 2018.
"It’s so much more accessible, to turn to an ally, a regional partner, if there are any concerns - whether it’s from a military point of view or an economic point of view. And I think you’re now going to see that shift."
Mr Schneier, an American Rabbi, added that it was a question of “if, not when” Saudi Arabia would join Bahrain and the UAE in embracing Israel.
Though Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the United States and in recent years grown closer to Israel, the Kingdom’s leadership says it is not ready yet to sign a peace deal.
But President Donald Trump spoke optimistically about Saudi Arabia changing its mind earlier this week, along with up to nine other countries.
“We’re going to have a lot of other countries joining us, including the big ones," Mr Trump said.
Israeli media reports have also pointed to Oman as the next country that is likely to embrace Israel, though many other countries in the Middle East have condemned the emerging, US-led alliance.
Turkey has warned that “history and people of the region will never forget and will never forgive the hypocritical behavior of the United Arab Emirates,” while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initially threatened to cut ties with the Gulf state.
Iran has condemned the peace deals as an “act of strategic stupidity,” though analysts point out that both the UAE and Bahrain have shared concerns about the regime’s growing influence in the region.
Under the terms of the so-called Abraham Accords signed on Tuesday, the UAE and Bahrain have agreed to establish embassies, introduce direct flights and increase cooperation on security and trade.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Trump hailed a “new dawn” for the Middle East, while Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The blessings of the peace we make today will be enormous.”
The timing of the agreements was particularly auspicious for Mr Netanyahu, who is grappling with mass protests against his leadership, a corruption trial and a severe second wave of coronavirus which forced ministers to place Israel under a second nationwide lockdown on Friday.
The deals have also consolidated Mr Trump’s popularity with the Republican Right and evangelical Christians ahead of elections in November.