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US predicts further Israeli-Arab rapprochement even if Trump loses election

Middle East envoy says normalisation deals have bipartisan support in Washington and are designed to bear long-term fruit
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at a press conference with Bahrain's Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani (R) and Israel's Meir Ben Shabbat, in Manama, Bahrain, 18 October 2020 (AFP)

Donald Trump's Middle East envoy said on Sunday that the US president's push for an Israeli-Arab rapprochement was gaining momentum and that he hoped more accords would follow even if Trump lost next month's election.

Avi Berkowitz, who accompanied an Israeli delegation which visited Bahrain on Sunday, said the so-called "Abraham Accords" had bipartisan support in the United States and were designed to bear long-term fruit by encouraging grassroots engagement between Israel and its new Arab partners.

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"Peace is something everybody should celebrate and see as a positive thing for the world," Berkowitz said in an interview. "It's our sincere hope that, no matter who wins the election, the Abraham Accords will continue to grow."

Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in agreeing last month to normalise ties with Israel, angering Palestinians who had conditioned any such regional rapprochement on statehood, with East Jerusalem as capital of their independent state.

The US administration had been racing against the clock to secure normalisation deals for Israel, in an effort to help Trump secure re-election in November.

For US allies in the Middle East, it is a chance to close ranks on Iran more overtly.

The flight carrying the Israeli delegation flew over Saudi Arabia, an accommodation by the Gulf's powerhouse, which has so far resisted US appeals to normalise ties with Israel.

"That is a decision for them to ultimately come to, our conversations with them have been positive on numerous fronts," Berkowitz said when asked about any Saudi plans to follow suit.

"We look to them for an understanding in the region of the temperature of how things are going on numerous fronts. We've had very good discussions with them but time will tell," he added.

Berkowitz, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other officials were due to travel on Monday to the UAE, where the accord with Israel has opened up bilateral commerce.

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