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Israel-UAE deal: Netanyahu arrives in DC for UAE, Bahrain deals amid protests at home

Bahraini and UAE ministers also arrive in DC for White House ceremony to declare a normalisation accord with Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a briefing on coronavirus developments in the country in Jerusalem on 13 September 2020 (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Washington DC on Monday amid protests at home calling for his resignation. 

Netanyahu and officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were due to sign a US-sponsored deal to normalise diplomatic relations, an accord denounced by Palestinians as an Arab betrayal of their struggle against occupation.  

US President Donald Trump was set to host the ceremony on Tuesday at the White House, in the presence of Netanyahu, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayan. The two Gulf ministers had also arrived in the US capital on Monday, according to the official Bahraini and Emirati news agencies. 

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Trump announced on Friday that Bahrain had emulated the UAE by agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move widely denounced by Bahrain’s opposition and activists as “a black day” for the country. 

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli delegation had shunned Netanyahu’s coalition partners Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. 

A full list of attendants had yet to be released by the White House, but Hungary announced its foreign minister would attend - marking the only representation from a European country. 

Netanyahu’s trip came days before a stringent three-week lockdown, which he had announced on Saturday as a measure to curb the spread of coronavirus in Israel, with the country facing one of the world’s highest infection rates.

Anti-Netanyahu protests

The lockdown announcement had reignited protests against the prime minister, with protesters calling for his resignation over his government’s poor handling of the pandemic, as well as his trial on corruption charges. 

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Protesters attempted to block Netanyahu from reaching Ben Gurion airport on Sunday. They eventually managing to block the entrance to Terminal 3, the main terminal for international departures, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Crime Minister, one of the organisations taking part in the protests, accused Netanyahu of running away from his country’s crises. 

“The people are collapsing and the defendant [Netanyahu], who fails to manage the crisis, closes the country and runs away,” the organisation said.

Another organisation, Black Flags, denounced Netanyahu’s US trip as unjustified. 

“A moment before entering lockdown, instead of dealing with the disaster he caused - Netanyahu runs away for four days of campaigning in the United States,” it said. 

“While we do not understand the restrictions and groan beneath the exacerbating crisis, he will be [having fun]. A real leader would stay to protect and strengthen his nation, but Netanyahu was engaged in the search for a private plane for him, his wife and his inciting son.”