Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in a Thursday phone call with President Trump agreed to a full normalization of relations after Netanyahu suspended plans to annex parts of the West Bank. At a press conference, President Trump said, "Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates' lead." A joint statement issued by the US, Israel, and the UAE stated, "Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit." Joe Biden hailed the announcement in a statement: "Today, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have taken a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East. The UAE's offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship. And it is a critical recognition that Israel is a vibrant, integral part of the Middle East that is here to stay. Israel can and will be a valued strategic and economic partner to all who welcome it."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in a statement also justified normalization as a way "to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories." Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi praised the diplomatic initiative in a statement: "I followed with great interest and appreciation the tripartite statement between the United States of America, our brothers [the] United Arab Emirates, and Israel regarding the agreement to stop Israel's annexation of the Palestinian territories and to take steps to bring peace to the Middle East. I value the effort of those embarking upon this agreement for the sake of achieving prosperity and stability for our region." Bahrain also welcomed the deal while Israeli officials told Army Radio about "advanced contacts" with Bahrain concerning normalizing relations. An American official confirmed that Bahrain and Oman are expected to normalize ties with Israel in the near future.
Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the agreement a "blow to the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, as well as an aggression against the Palestinian people." The Palestinian Authority recalled its ambassador to the UAE in protest. Mtanes Shihadeh, a member of the Knesset from the Joint List, condemned normalization as a "betrayal... no less than a knife in the back of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations." While praising Netanyahu's diplomatic achievement, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett mused, "It is unfortunate that Netanyahu gave up a once-in-a-century chance to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, Ma'aleh Adumim, Bet El and the rest of Israeli settlements." David Elhayani, head of the settler umbrella group Yesha, accused Netanyahu of betraying and deceiving the West Bank settlers and some of his most loyal political supporters.
US authorities nonviolently seized on the high seas four tankers – the Luna, Pandi, Bering, and Bella – transporting Iranian fuel to Venezuela and will impound them in Houston. On July 2, US District Judge James E. Boasberg signed a warrant for the seizure of the almost 1.2 million barrels of gasoline on those tankers because its sale intended to benefit sanctioned Iranian entities, particularly the IRGC.
Without elaborating, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told AK Party members in Ankara Thursday, "We have told Greece if you attack our Oruc Reis, you will pay a heavy price. And they got their first answer today." Greece's defense ministry denied unconfirmed Greek media reports that a Greek vessel attacked a Turkish ship escorting the Oruc Reis. The present standoff between Turkish and Greek warships in the eastern Mediterranean began when Ankara last Monday dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. Greece in turn sent its own warships to monitor the Turkish flotilla's activity. France and Greece on Thursday conducted joint naval training exercises off Crete, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to "strengthen the French military presence in the eastern Mediterranean" to "monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law." Erdogan reiterated Thursday in telephone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Council President Charles Michel Turkey's commitment to defend its maritime rights. On Friday, an EU foreign ministers meeting will address the emerging crisis. The EU already imposed in February visa bans and asset freezes on two Turkish Petroleum Corporation executives for "unauthorized drilling."
Essam el-Erian, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Council and former vice chairman of the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, died from a heart attack Thursday in Cairo's Tora jail. When he died, el-Erian was serving a life sentence for coordinating with armed groups, among other crimes, and appealing a 2018 death sentence for allegedly murdering two people during the violent protests against the 2013 military coup. He complained of spending most of the past seven years in solitary confinement and contracting hepatitis C while in custody.
Lithuania on Thursday designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, without elaborating, the group poses a threat to Lithuania's national security and the country barred anyone affiliated with Hezbollah from entering its territory over the next 10 years.
The US Justice Department announced Thursday the dismantling of three terrorist financing cyber-enabled campaigns involving al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas – ranging from cryptocurrency fundraising efforts to a bitcoin money-laundering network.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum