The United Arab Emirates 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 so-called “Abraham Agreement”, announced by United States President Donald Trump on Thursday, secures an Israeli commitment to halt further annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.
However, addressing reporters later in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he agreed to “delay” the annexation as part of the deal with the UAE, but the plans remain “on the table”.
The UAE is also the third Arab nation to reach such a deal with Israel, after Jordan and Egypt.
Here is how other nations and the various stakeholders in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reacted to the Israel-UAE deal:
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the accord.
“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising announcement,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Abbas.
Abu Rudeineh, reading from a statement outside Abbas’s headquarters in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said the deal was a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause.”
Hanan Ashrawi, an outspoken member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee who has served in various leadership positions in Palestine, said the UAE’s announcement was the equivalent of being “sold out” by “friends”.
May you never experience the agony of having your country stolen; may you never feel the pain of living in captivity under occupation; may you never witness the demolition of your home or murder of your loved ones. May you never be sold out by your “friends.” https://t.co/CBaNl1QQqx
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) August 13, 2020
Hamas rejected the US-brokered deal establishing formal ties between Israel and the UAE in exchange for Israel dropping its plans to annex land in the occupied West Bank, saying it did not serve the cause of the Palestinians.
“This agreement does absolutely not serve the Palestinian cause, it rather serves the Zionist narrative. This agreement encourages the occupation [by Israel] to continue its denial of the rights of our Palestinian people, and even to continue its crimes against our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said in a statement.
“What is required is to support the legitimate struggle of our people against the occupation and not to establish agreements with this occupier, and any annexation we will face by a Palestinian confrontation that is supported by the Arabs and internationally, and not by signing normalisation agreements with them [Israel].”
Jordan said that the UAE-Israel deal could push forward stalled peace negotiations if it succeeds in prodding Israel to accept a Palestinian state on land that Israel had occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
“If Israel dealt with it as an incentive to end occupation … it will move the region towards a just peace,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a statement on state media.
Israel’s failure to do this would only deepen the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict and threaten the security of the region as a whole, Safadi said.
Safadi said the agreement must be followed by Israel ending any unilateral moves to annex territory in the occupied West Bank that “obstruct peace prospects and violate Palestinian rights”.
“The region is at a crossroads … continued occupation and denial of the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights won’t bring peace or security,” Safadi added.
Jewish settler groups
The move angered right-wing Israeli settlers who want to annex the West Bank.
Netanyahu said that while he had promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to areas, including Jewish settlements, in the territory, which Palestinians seek for a future state, he had made clear he first needed a green light from Washington.
“He 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.
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.
تابعت بإهتمام و تقدير بالغ البيان المشترك الثلاثي بين الولايات المتحدة الامريكية و دولة الامارات العربية الشقيقة وإسرائيل حول الاتفاق علي ايقاف ضم إسرائيل للاراضي الفلسطينية ..١/٢
— Abdelfattah Elsisi (@AlsisiOfficial) August 13, 2020
“I value the efforts of those in charge of the deal to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.”
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.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the agreement between Israel and the UAE.
“The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalise relations is hugely good news,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”
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”.
The accord paved the way for a resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians with the aim to establish two states, he said, calling it “the only option” to achieve peace in the region.
Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the deal normalising ties between Israel and the UAE, calling it a dangerous and “strategic act of idiocy” that will further “invigorate the axis of resistance in the region”, according to the official IRNA news agency.
“The shameful measure of Abu Dhabi to reach an agreement with the fake Zionist regime (Israel) is a dangerous move and the UAE and other states that backed it will be responsible for its consequences,” the statement said, according to IRNA
“This is stabbing the Palestinians in the back and will strengthen the regional unity against the Zionist regime,” the foreign ministry said.
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”.
Iran’s religious leaders have yet to react to the deal.
UAE’s new approach for normalizing ties w/fake, criminal #Israel doesn’t maintain peace & security, but serves ongoing Zionists’ crimes. Abu Dhabi behavior has no justification, turning back on the Palestine cause. W/ that strategic mistake, #UAE will be engulfed in Zionism fire. pic.twitter.com/NDNy94laa8
— H.amirabdollahian (@Amirabdolahian) August 13, 2020
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.
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.
“The secretary-general will continue to work with all sides to open further possibilities for dialogue, peace and stability,” the spokesman added.
Reactions on Twitter
Lisa Goldman, co-founder of 972Mag, a news and commentary site focused on Israel and Palestine, said, “Netanyahu never intended to annex” the West Bank, but the UAE is “claiming a diplomatic victory in exchange for what’s probably a lot of very valuable security cooperation from Israel. All on the backs of Palestinians, as usual.”
Netanyahu never intended to annex the W. Bank. But here we are, with the UAE claiming a diplomatic victory in exchange for what’s probably a lot of very valuable security cooperation from Israel. All on the backs of Palestinians, as usual. https://t.co/bpGp4B81JS
— Lisa Goldman (@lisang) August 13, 2020
The move also struck some Palestinians as ill-timed and insulting for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in the UAE.
Mohammed Hemish, who works in communications at al-Shabaka, the premier Palestinian policy network, chided the UAE for its treatment of Palestinians who moved to the Emirates after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, which displaced more than 700,000 Palestinians, and subsequent wars that displaced more.
OK … so this what hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in the UAE and have given blood and sweat for the building it deserve: an announcement by a far right US president of a normalization deal with a far right Israeli govt. pic.twitter.com/Wpn0xL8WLD
— Mohammed Hemish (@MohamedHemish) August 13, 2020
The left-wing advocacy group J Street welcomed announcements that Israel is suspending plans to annex parts of the West Bank and that the UAE and Israel are taking steps to establish more normalised ties.
“Clarification will be needed that this is not simply a short-term suspension of a disastrous idea, and the United States and the international community should be demanding that Israel commit permanently not to proceed with any unilateral annexation,” the group said in a statement.
“The agreement between Israel and the UAE to move toward fully normalized ties is also welcome news for all who wish to see a stable and prosperous Israel living in peace and security alongside all of its regional neighbours,” the statement read. “It is just the latest evidence that dialogue and diplomacy, rather than unilateral action and belligerence, are the route to long-term security.”