Hosts Trump

Trump Hosts Israel, UAE and Bahrain in Signing Ceremony – The New York Times

President Trump said the agreements to normalize relations marked “the dawn of a new Middle East,” but some analysts said his claims were overblown.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Michael Crowley

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.


Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

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.

What was clear in the event, carried live on major cable networks less than 50 days before the November election, were Mr. Trump’s political interests. The Trump campaign, eager to portray the belligerent president as a diplomat and peacemaker, has capitalized on the agreements with online ads suggesting he deserves nothing less than the Nobel Prize, for which two right-wing Scandinavian lawmakers have nominated him.

Mr. Netanyahu’s interests were well served, too. The Israeli prime minister, who has long had a symbiotic relationship with the American president, is weathering twin political crises at home: a resurgence of the coronavirus that has led him to order a new national lockdown, and a trial on felony corruption charges.

The two men never seemed closer than they did on Tuesday. Meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in the Oval Office beforehand, Mr. Trump presented him with a large golden key embedded in a wooden box that he described as “a key to the White House, a key to our country.”

“You have the key to the hearts of the people of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu replied.

“This is peace in the Middle East without blood all over the sand,” Mr. Trump added.

There was at least one potentially discordant moment between them, however, when Mr. Trump said that if re-elected, he would try to strike a deal with Iran, which has so far refused to negotiate with him after he withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.

“I’m going to make a good deal with Iran,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m going to make a deal that’s great for Iran. It’s going to get them back. We’re going to help them in every way possible. And Iran will be very happy. Iran will be very rich and very quickly.”

Mr. Netanyahu has firmly opposed negotiations with what he calls “the murderous Iranian regime.” Ms. Maloney said his host’s remarks were “probably not what Bibi bargained for.”

As a condition for the Emirates’ agreement to normalize relations, Mr. Netanyahu agreed to freeze his plan to annex portions of the West Bank. But the Palestinians seemed an afterthought, barely mentioned in the day’s official remarks.

Palestinian leaders, however, showed no sign of reconsidering their adamant refusal to negotiate with Israel in the framework of a peace plan the Trump White House released in January or their view of Tuesday’s agreement.

A public statement from the Palestine Liberation Organization called it “a black day in the history of the people of Palestine,” saying that peace requires “the end of Israel’s occupation.”

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Abdul Latif al-Zayani, emphasized the Palestinian cause in his remarks, however, saying that a “just, comprehensive and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be the foundation” of a regional peace.

And his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “halting the annexation of the Palestinian territories, a decision that reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come.”

The Trump administration has also had to deny that it has agreed to a sale of American-made F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates that the Emiratis were said to have made a condition to Tuesday’s agreement.

Speaking on Fox News earlier in the day, Mr. Trump said he would “have absolutely no problem” selling F-35s to the Emirates, despite objections within Israel.

In a statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the agreements made for “an important day,” but warned of important unanswered questions, including about the F-35. Ms. Pelosi said Congress “will be watching and monitoring to ensure that Israel can maintain its qualitative military edge in the region,” referring to a term in U.S. law prohibiting regional arms sales that could jeopardize Israel.

Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser and the author of “Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change,” said it was possible to attach strings to a sale of the jets to the Emirates that could satisfy Israel’s concerns.

He noted that when a similar uproar greeted the Reagan administration’s push to sell fighter jets to Egypt, that country agreed not to deploy them at its Tobruk air base.

“If that’s the price of peace,” he said of the jet sales, “there are ways of reducing the threat, by not selling them tankers, barring them from deploying outside their territory or degrading the avionics,” to name a few.

David M. Halbfinger contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

Updated  Sept. 15, 2020

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Hosts Orion

Orion Hosts a Bizarrely Wonky Protoplanetary System With 3 Stars – ScienceAlert

A cloud of dust and gas swirling around an infant star system 1,300 light-years away is like no planet-forming disc we’ve seen yet. It consists of three rings, wrapped around three stars – and all three rings have different orientations, with the innermost wildly misaligned from the other two.

It’s the first direct evidence that such misalignment – known as ‘disc tearing’, and predicted in modelling – can occur in the wild.

But, although the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array (ALMA) has performed the most detailed observation of the system yet, it’s still unclear exactly how the disc-tearing occurred.

The system, named GW Orionis, is located about 1,300 light-years away, in the constellation of Orion. It consists of two stars, locked in orbit around each other at a distance of roughly one astronomical unit (the average distance between Earth and the Sun), with a third star orbiting the pair on a misaligned orbit at a distance of eight astronomical units.

Around all three stars, the giant protoplanetary cloud of dust and gas churns, with the rings at distances of 46, 185, and 340 astronomical units from the centre of the system.

That outer ring is the largest we’ve ever seen in a protoplanetary system; for comparison, Pluto’s average distance from the Sun is 39.5 astronomical units.

Protoplanetary discs, as the name suggests, are the material from which planets form around a star. First, the star needs to form and grow in a stellar nursery. A knot of material in a protostellar cloud gravitationally collapses, and starts to spin. This spools a giant disc of gas and dust that feeds into the growing star.

When this formation process is complete, the leftover material in the disc starts to clump together and eventually forms planets and other minor bodies. That’s why, in planetary systems like our Solar System, the planets and rock belts are aligned more-or-less along a flat plane, circling the star’s equator.

Around systems of multiple stars, however, the planetary plane is often misaligned with the orbits of its stars. Studying the protoplanetary discs around multiple star systems can help us understand how this misalignment happens.

The strange misalignment in the protoplanetary disc in GW Orionis was first discovered in ALMA observations in 2017.

gw orionisALMA observation (left) and VLT (right). (ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), ESO/Exeter/Kraus et al.)

“We were surprised to see the strong misalignment of the inner ring,” said astronomer Jiaqing Bi of the University of Victoria in Canada. “But the strange warp in the disk is confirmed by a twisted pattern that ALMA measured in the gas of the disc.”

A second team of astronomers also took closer observations, using both ALMA and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

“In our images, we see the shadow of the inner ring on the outer disk,” said astronomer Stefan Kraus of the University of Exeter in the UK.

“At the same time, ALMA allowed us to measure the precise shape of the ring that casts the shadow. Combining this information allows us to derive the three-dimensional orientation of the misaligned ring and of the warped disk surface.”

Luckily, although the misalignment was only discovered recently, GW Orionis has been monitored since 2008, and the third star in the system was discovered in 2011. That gave the researchers several years of data from which to reconstruct the orbits of the system.

Using 3D computer simulations of the system, Kraus and his team found that the conflicting gravitational influences of the stars along different planes was able to produce the pronounced disc tearing seen in GW Orionis.

But Bi and his team found that the gravitational effect of the stars’ orbital shenanigans isn’t enough on its own to result in the observed rings.

“Our simulations show that the gravitational pull from the triple stars alone cannot explain the observed large misalignment. We think that the presence of a planet between these rings is needed to explain why the disk was torn apart,” said astronomer Nienke van der Marel of the University of Victoria.

“This planet has likely carved a dust gap and broken the disk at the location of the current inner and outer rings.”

If there was such a planet, it would be the first we’d ever found orbiting three stars – but of course, it’s way too early to make such a claim. Future observations of the system are in the pipeline to try and solve this fascinating puzzle.

The research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and Science.

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