Serbia and Kosovo Increase Normalization With Israel In Trump-Brokered Deal

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September 4, 2020

Serbia and Kosovo are in the process of normalizing ties with Israel, thanks to agreements arbitrated by Washington, the Times of Israel reported Friday.

Serbia is set to move its embassy to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates last month—while the majority-Muslim Kosovo moves to fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty.

Both agreements were secured at a summit between Kosovo, Serbia, and Israel overseen by American diplomats. Importantly, the agreement also secured more amiable terms between the two Balkan countries, historic rivals dating far past the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. The Trump administration hailed the agreement—only the latest in a flurry of new agreements normalizing ties with Israel—as another big win delivered by the White House.

"Truly, it is historic," Trump said, standing alongside the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo in the Oval Office. "I look forward to going to both countries in the not-too-distant future."

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed Trump’s praises. "I thank my friend President Vucic of Serbia for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassy," Netanyahu said. "I also want to thank my friend Donald Trump for his contribution to this achievement."

Asked about the Trump-brokered deal during a Friday press conference, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden declined to judge the deal without knowing all the details but said normalization with Israel "seems positive to me."

"I think that normalization of relations among countries is by and large a good thing," Biden said. "To have a Muslim-majority country normalize relations with Israel, in a generic sense, seems positive to me."

Serbia’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem mirrors a similar decision made by President Trump in 2017 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, one that was maligned by Obama officials and Biden advisers as a potentially disastrous move.

"Please ignore the reality of strength and success you see in front of your own eyes and instead keep reading tweets from Peter Beinart, Matt Duss, Ben Rhodes, J Street, and Democrats about how time is running out for Israel," said Washington Free Beacon contributor Noah Pollak on Friday, in reference to prominent Democratic staffers and left-wing intellectuals who have consistently criticized the Trump foreign policy regime in the Middle East and elsewhere.

While the agreement fell short of securing recognition from Serbia of Kosovo's sovereignty—a feat few expect is feasible, especially as countries such as Russia and China do not recognize Kosovo’s independence—it secured monumental economic and transportation agreements between the two countries. The first flight from Serbia to Kosovo is expected to follow in the near future.

The brokerage is only the most recent in the Trump administration’s peacemaking portfolio in this year alone. Washington delivered a historic deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last month, opening the door to a domino effect among the Gulf States.

Administration officials hope to target Oman, Bahrain, and ultimately Saudi Arabia in future negotiations as Washington builds a coalition of states across religions and ideologies to combat Iran. Bahrain appears well on its way, as Washington officials hint at a formal peace deal before Rosh Hashanah.

Published under: Israel , Kosovo , Serbia