Palestinians Call UAE-Israel Deal A Betrayal; Turkish President Talks of Suspending Ties With Abu Dhabi

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“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising, announcement,” said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh. — File photo

Netanyahu, who paid two secret visits to the UAE ahead of the deal, says he has agreed to ‘delay’ the annexation of occupied West Bank, but the plans remain ‘on the table’

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The US-brokered peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel on Thursday has drawn strong world-wide reactions. The reactions of various stake-holders as well as regional and international powers have been along expected lines. While Israel claimed it to be a “historic moment”, Palestinians slammed it as a a betrayal of their cause and “backstabbing.” Turkey and Iran criticised it strongly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening to downgrade its relations with the UAE.

It may be noted that the UAE has become the first Gulf Arab country to reach a deal on normalising relations with Israel, capping years of discreet contacts between the two countries in commerce and technology. The UAE is also the third Arab nation to reach such a deal with Israel, after Jordan and Egypt.

Turkish news agency Anadolu, quoting Israel Today newspaper, said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited the UAE ahead of the deal. “During the past two years, Netanyahu has made at least two visits to the UAE, as part of contacts to formulate the agreement,” read a report published by the daily Israel Today.

The deal secures an Israeli commitment to halt further annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank. However, addressing reporters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said he agreed to “delay” the annexation as part of the deal with the UAE, but the plans remain “on the table”.

In a nationwide televised address, the Israeli prime minister said the deal would entailed acceding to a request from US President Donald Trump to “temporarily wait” on implementing the Israeli leader’s pledge to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

He also said the deal would lead to “full and formal peace” with the Gulf Arab state and voiced hope that other countries in the region would follow the UAE’s example.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose officials seemed to be taken by surprise, issued an unusually strong condemnation of a regional Arab neighbour and instructed the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE to return immediately.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising, announcement,” said Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Reading a statement on Palestinian television, Abu Rudeineh said the leadership regarded the UAE’s move as “a betrayal”.

The statement urged the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to assemble to “reject” the deal, adding “neither the UAE nor any other party has the right to speak in the name of the Palestinian people.”

Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority and the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, has refused all political dealings with the Trump administration for more than two years, accusing it of taking a consistently pro-Israel stance.

In Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, told Reuters: “Normalisation is a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause, and it serves only the Israeli occupation.”

In a rare show of unity, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke to Abbas by phone to convey his “absolute rejection” of the deal, Hamas officials said.

The extremist Israeli settlers who want to annex the West Bank reacted angrily. “He (Netanyahu) deceived us. He has deceived half a million residents of the area and hundreds of thousands of voters,” said David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council of settlers.

In Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, defended the deal and described it as a “badly needed realism”.

“While the peace decision remains basically a Palestinian-Israeli one, the bold initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has allowed, by banishing the spectre of annexing Palestinian lands, more time for peace opportunities through the two-state solution,” Gargash said in a series of tweets.

“Developing normal ties in return for this is a realistic approach forwarded by the Emirates,” he said. “The successful decision is to take and give. This has been achieved.”

Iran

The Iranian foreign ministry denounced the deal as an act of “strategic stupidity from Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv”. “The oppressed people of Palestine and all the free nations of the world will never forgive the normalising of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime and the complicity in its crimes,” a ministry statement said.

“This is stabbing the Palestinians in the back and will strengthen the regional unity against the Zionist regime.” Iran’s Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated to the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said the deal between Israel and the UAE on normalising ties was “shameful”.

Turkey

Turkey said history will not forget and never forgive the “hypocritical behaviour” of the UAE in agreeing a deal with Israel to normalise relations. The Palestinian people and administration were right to react strongly against the agreement, the foreign ministry said.

“We may take steps to suspend diplomatic ties with the UAE or withdraw our ambassador,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers.

Saudi Arabia

There was no official reaction or media coverage in Saudi Arabia, but some Saudis tweeted under hashtags “normalization is treason”, “UAE” and “Israel.”

Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, the head of Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said the deal was a betrayal of the Palestinian cause and of pan-Arabism.

Bahrain

The Gulf state of Bahrain welcomed the accord between the UAE and Israel, state news agency BNA said. The small island state of Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which has not yet commented on the agreement. Bahrain praised the United States for its efforts towards securing the deal.

Oman

Oman said it backed the normalisation of ties between the neighbouring United Arab Emirates and Israel, and hoped the move would help achieve a lasting Middle East peace. A foreign ministry spokesman expressed the sultanate’s “support for the UAE’s decision regarding relations with Israel”, according to a statement on Oman’s official news agency.

Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a close ally of the UAE, welcomed the agreement. “I followed with interest and appreciation the joint statement between the United States, United Arab Emirates and Israel to halt the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands and taking steps to bring peace in the Middle East,” el-Sisi said on Twitter.

United Nations

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, said he hoped the normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE can help realise a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

“The secretary-general welcomes this agreement, hoping it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realise a two state-solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.

Europe

Germany welcomed the “historic” deal. The normalisation of ties between the two countries “is an important contribution to peace in the region”, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the agreement. “The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalise relations is hugely good news,” Johnson said on Twitter.

France welcomed Israel’s decision to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank under the historic agreement, calling it a “positive step”, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement, adding that the suspension “must become a definitive measure”.

Joe Biden

In a statement, Democratic United States presidential candidate Joe Biden said: “The UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship …  A Biden-Harris Administration will seek to build on this progress, and will challenge all the nations of the region to keep pace.”

Biden also addressed annexation: “Annexation would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president,” he said.

– With input from agencies

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