WASHINGTON — Israel and two Arab nations signed agreements at the White House on Tuesday to normalize their relations, a step toward a realignment of the Middle East but one that failed to address the future of the Palestinians.
President Trump presided over a South Lawn ceremony where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed a general declaration of principles the White House has named the Abraham Accords, after the biblical father of three monotheistic religions, as well individual agreements between Israel and the two Arab states.
Mr. Trump pronounced it a historic moment for their region. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Mr. Trump said.
The texts of the agreements detail how the three countries will open embassies and establish other new diplomatic and economic ties, including tourism, technology and energy. Israel and the Emirates are beginning commercial air travel between their countries for the first time, and Bahrain has opened its airspace for those flights.
They make scant reference to the fate of the Palestinians, but include a call for “a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.”
The accords are the first such agreements between Israel and an Arab state since 1994, when the Jewish state established diplomatic relations with Jordan. They are also another step toward the formation of a de facto alliance between Israel and the Gulf’s Sunni Arab monarchies against their common enemy, Shiite Iran. Pressuring Iran has been a central goal of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, and Trump officials have worked to build a common regional front against Tehran in which Saudi Arabia has played a major role.
Speaking from the porch above the South Portico, just below the Truman balcony, Mr. Trump said the accords were just the beginning. “Today’s signing sets history on a new course, and there will be other countries very, very soon” that make similar agreements, ending Israel’s isolation in the region.
In remarks to reporters before the ceremony, Mr. Trump said five nations could soon take similar steps — and suggested that one was Saudi Arabia, in what analysts say would be a far more dramatic breakthrough. Analysts believe Sudan and Oman are likelier candidates for normalization in the short term. But they say that Bahrain most likely acted only with Riyadh’s blessing, and that the Saudi royals are weighing their own move.
Mr. Netanyahu also suggested that more nations would follow. “This day is a pivot of history,” he said. “It heralds a new dawn of peace.”
“This peace will eventually expand to include other Arab states, and ultimately it can end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all,” he added.
The Palestinians expressed their anger over the agreements by launching rockets into Israel from Gaza during the White House ceremony.
The staging of the event seemed intended to invoke the scene more than 25 years ago in the same location when President Bill Clinton brokered an agreement — and iconic handshake — between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Mr. Trump declared that “there’s going to be peace in the Middle East,” a phrase that typically suggests a resolution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
But Dennis B. Ross, a former Middle East peace negotiator who helped to broker that 1993 agreement, said the two events were “very different.” He said the agreements signed Tuesday were “significant” because they demonstrated that “Palestinians cannot freeze the region and prevent open cooperation with Israel.”
On the other hand, he noted that “the U.A.E. and Bahrain are countries not in a state of war with Israel and have quietly cooperated with it,” and that the day lacked the feeling in 1993 “that something both psychically and historically profound was taking place at the White House.”
Mr. Trump sought all the same to create a sense of drama as he was joined by his guests in making remarks from the South Portico porch, a highly unusual location for official events.
Then, to the sound of portentous horns and crashing cymbals, the four men moved to a long table in front of the South Portico to sign three sets of agreements before a seated audience that the White House estimated at 800 people, many of whom did not wear masks.
Among those in attendance was Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has made Middle East peace a central focus of his White House work and helped to broker the agreements.
But analysts noted that Mr. Kushner’s original goal of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is as distant as ever, months after Palestinian leaders declared a peace plan that he spent years crafting to be dead on arrival.
“It’s not conflict resolution and it’s not peace — this is a business deal,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group sharply critical of Mr. Netanyahu. “It’s very, very clear that there are aligned interests between Israel and these countries — military, security, diplomatic, economic — and those interests have been there for two decades.”
“This formalizes that, but it shouldn’t be overplayed as resolving a core conflict for Israel with its neighbors,” he added. Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, he said, “remains unaddressed with this agreement.”
Unmentioned in the official proceedings was the gravitational pull of Iran, which played a key role in bringing the parties together, analysts said.
“To state the obvious, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, deserves no small part of the credit for this breakthrough, having generated the conditions for longstanding quiet security consultations and cooperation between the Gulf and Israel,” said Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.