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Israel-UAE deal gives Trump a rare win abroad ahead of election

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His top national security advisor didn't hold back: President Donald Trump deserves a Nobel Prize after the surprise announcement of a normalization between Israel and the UAE.

The city hall in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv is lit up in the colours of the United Arab Emirates national flag on August 13, 2020. – Israel and the UAE agreed to normalise relations in a landmark US-brokered deal, only the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation. The agreement, first announced by US President Donald Trump on Twitter, will see Israel halt its plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, according to the UAE. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Trump "should be a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize," the advisor, Robert O'Brien, told reporters. 

"It will take some time in this environment but it wouldn't surprise me that the president is eventually nominated."

The decision by Israel and the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic ties, open up tourism and generally thaw their Middle East freeze was big news — only the third such deal ever struck by the Israelis with Arab countries.

And although there remain many unanswered questions about the accord — and an invitation to Stockholm from the Nobel committee seems far off — Trump has reason to celebrate at home.

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He's up for a tough reelection on November 3 and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden is framing the Republican businessman as a loose cannon.

It's true that Trump's other splashy foreign policy victories have often ended in messy controversy or stalemate.

Extraordinary efforts to get North Korea's dictatorship to give up nuclear weapons have not worked, Iran continues to resist crippling US sanctions, and a bid to host Afghan Taliban leaders at the White House's Camp David retreat embarrassingly had to be scrapped at the last minute.

But success in the notoriously intractable Middle East with the first Israeli-Arab peace deal in a quarter century is a good way to answer critics.

"HUGE breakthrough today!" Trump tweeted.

– Setbacks and questions –

Trump is never shy about touting his supposed victories, but there aren't many that also get approval from opponents. In this case, even Biden got on board, saying the UAE and Israel made "a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East."

True, the former vice president didn't mention Trump and he took some of the credit for the progress, which he said had been helped by the work he did with Barack Obama during his presidency.

Also, as to be expected in the Middle East, the big announcement obscures more complex questions.

Crucial to the UAE decision to embrace Israel is a commitment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt his plans to annex swaths of occupied Palestinian lands. The news was barely out, though, before confusion mounted over whether Netanyahu was promising really to freeze or just postpone.

"Somewhere between a long time and a short time — that's what temporary means," Jared Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, said when asked how long "temporary" would last.

Awkwardly, Kushner himself authored the plan presented in January in which the United States gave Israel its blessing to carry out the annexations. That plan, dubbed by some the "deal of the century," is now moot.

But Trump will take the win.

Asked by a reporter from the Trump-friendly Fox News network whether the White House will host a big, set-piece signing ceremony for Israel and the UAE — with Trump as the broker — O'Brien was enthusiastic.

"I think it will be a great day," he said.

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