Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement on Thursday, August 13, to normalize relations between the two states, a deal slammed by the Palestinians who called it a “treacherous stab in the back.” Under the agreement, which was brokered by US President Donald Trump, Israel says it has agreed to suspend the annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. However only hours after the official announcement from the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he remained “committed to annexing parts of the West Bank.”
The agreement for the “full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates” came after a phone call earlier on Thursday between Trump, Netanyahu and MBZ, a joint statement said. Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, subsequently tweeted: “During a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories.” The UAE will, with the formal signing of the agreement, become the first Arab state on the Persian Gulf and the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have active diplomatic ties with Israel.
Delegations from Israel and the UAE will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications and other issues. The two countries are also set to exchange ambassadors and embassies.
Far-right Netanyahu described Thursday, August 13, as “a historic day” and said in a televised address, “more Arab and Muslim countries will join this circle of peace.” During a press conference, Netanyahu touted a formula of “peace for peace.”
Netanyahu also said that he still plans to advance annexation of Palestinian territories. “I’m not giving up on this. It is on the table because of me. Trump put sovereignty into his peace plan, because I asked for it,” Netanyahu said. “But in the first place I said again and again that we would only implement sovereignty in coordination with the US. Without support from the US, in the best case it would be worthless, and in the worst case, it would hurt ties very much.” However, MBZ presented the matter as though he had exacted concessions from Israel, emphasizing the suspension of sovereignty plans in exchange for normalization of relations, as he indicated in the tweet he sent out cited above.
Joint List leader, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) tweeted that, “Agreements are made between politicians, but peace is made between peoples.” “As long as Israel continues to control millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories,” he said, “illusions of peace will continue to be celebrated on foreign lawns, while reality here in Israel still requires fixing”; a reference to the anticipated White House outdoor garden signing of the Israel-UAE deal, similar to the 1993 event in Washington to formalize the first Oslo agreement.
According to a Hadash and Communist Party of Israel communique “Netanyahu and Israel never really meant to annex, but in order for him to abandon the plan, the UAE agreed to make its secret relations open. Nothing will change and anyone who thinks the Palestinians will disappear is mistaken.” “The UAE or any other party has no right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, nor does it [the latter] allow anyone to intervene in Palestinian affairs regarding the legitimate rights in their homeland.” “Only the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and the solution of the refugee question will bring peace”, they said. Hadash’s and the CPI reiterated their rejection of the far-right Israeli government’s endeavors to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank as well as any unilateral measures that undermine the prospects of peace.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian Authority official, said Israel had been rewarded for its occupation. “The UAE has come out in the open on its secret dealings/normalization with Israel. Please do not do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” she tweeted. “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.”
Awni Almashni, an official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement and activist based in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, told Middle East Eye that peace in the region could only come by addressing the problems faced by the Palestinians. “The agreements Israel is trying to reach with Muslim and Arab countries are a way to go around the Palestinian issue and to avoid it, but any peace plans with any Arab country is only an illusion and won’t solve the main problem here between Israel and Palestine,” he said. Almashni noted that annexation had been frozen through the Palestinian people’s and the international community’s outright rejection of Israel’s plan, long before Thursday’s announcement. He said linking annexation with the UAE deal “is an attempt to sell the agreement with Israel as an achievement, and it’s not”.
In fact, Thursday’s agreement, which received no Palestinian input, effectively kills off the Arab Peace Initiative – a 2002 scheme re-endorsed by the Arab League in 2017 that offered widespread recognition of Israel in return for it withdrawing to its 1967 borders and addressing the issue of Palestinian refugees.