WASHINGTON, D.C. - With just hours to go before the White House signing ceremony for Israel's historic normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates and its peace declaration with Bahrain, there is a sense that the event is being conducted like a covert military operation.
The White House has not released details on the ceremony and what it will look like and not even details of the order of events. What is known, however, is that the ceremony itself is not expected to be long but the guest list is.
Although the ceremony is taking place Tuesday evening (Israel time), all parties are expected to continue working on the details of the agreements afterwards.
While the teams have been working on the UAE agreement for a relatively long time, the details of the memorandum of understanding with Bahrain, which was only announced on Friday, have not yet been settled.
In addition, an Israeli security delegation is expected to leave soon for the UAE to discuss security cooperation – an issue of no small sensitivity given the apparent inclusion of the U.S. sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.
It is important to note that uncertainty surrounded the agreement with Bahrain due to various statements against normalization coming from the Gulf state. It is likely that American pressure led to the signing at the White House on Tuesday.
During the flight to the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not speak to the reporters accompanying the official delegation and did not go down to talk them in the press area. It was obvious that they were completely isolated from the delegation.
Netanyahu did not address reporters and the crew as he and his wife boarded the plane or as they disembarked.
Furthermore, a barrier was set up on the plane between the press area and the delegation, with a "no entry" sign to ensure that the separation was complete.
What is known at this stage is that the prime minister will be representing Israel at the ceremony, along with Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Given the coronavirus crisis, the Israeli delegation demanded that social distancing be maintained and masks worn during the ceremony, in contrast to White House policy. The Israeli delegation is also in capsules for the duration of the trip and banned from leaving their hotel.
While international interest in the agreements has been significant, it seems that the ceremony is of no great importance to the American public that is currently dealing with a surging pandemic that has claimed the lives of almost 200,000 people there.
The agreements and accompanying celebrations are not likely to help Trump with public opinion. This will perhaps strengthen his base - the evangelicals and Orthodox Jews who adore him anyway - but not the average American. They are less interested in what happens thousands of miles from home during a rampant pandemic.