Netanyahu says deal with U.A.E. ushers in ‘new era’ in Israeli-Arab relations

Netanyahu says deal with U.A.E. ushers in ‘new era’ in Israeli-Arab relations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the announcement that full diplomatic ties will be established with the United Arab Emirates has ushered in a “new era” in Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

In a nationally broadcast statement delivered on Thursday, Netanyahu said the “full and official peace” with the U.A.E. would lead to co-operation in many spheres between the countries and a “wonderful future” for citizens of both nations.

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.

Netanyahu also said in the broadcast that the Trump administration asked that Israel put its West Bank annexation plans on hold to move forward with the agreement on ties with the U.A.E.

But he said there was “no change” to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank, simply that the plans were on “temporary hold” and that implementing annexation would be done with U.S. co-ordination.

WATCH | Netanyahu announces the deal between Israel and the U.A.E.: 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the agreement with the United Arab Emirates marked a significant milestone in peace with Arab countries. 0:36

U.A.E. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Thursday any further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory would have ended hopes for peace in the region.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia after the announcement that the U.A.E. had agreed to a deal to normalize relations with Israel, Gargash said the U.A.E. had dismantled a ticking time bomb that was threatening the two-state solution.

The peace deal was the product of lengthy discussions between Israel, the U.A.E. and the United States that recently accelerated, White House officials said.

The agreement was sealed in a phone call on Thursday between U.S. President Donald Trump, Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, Israel’s largest in the occupied West Bank, with a view of the Jerusalem skyline in the background. Under the agreement, Israel has agreed to temporarily suspend applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank that it has been discussing annexing. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

The officials described the agreement, to be known as the Abraham Accords, as the first of its kind since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. It also gives Trump a foreign policy success as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3.

White House officials said Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz were deeply involved in negotiating the deal, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

A joint statement issued by the three nations said the three leaders had “agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”

“This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region,” the statement said.

WATCH | U.S. president announces historic deal between Israel and U.A.E.:

President Donald Trump touted the deal as a ‘significant’ step toward a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East. 0:53

Palestinian reaction

For the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the announcement marked both a win and setback. While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans for the moment, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the deal following a meeting of his top leadership. His spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said Thursday that the agreement amounts to “treason” and that the Palestinians demand that it be retracted.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the U.A.E. has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” she wrote on Twitter. “Please don’t do us a favour. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” 

The militant group, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the deal by the Emiratis “a stabbing in the back of our people.”

Partnerships on many fronts

The joint statement from the U.S., the U.A.E. and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and are expected soon to exchange ambassadors and embassies.

“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Bin Zayed. It said the leaders had a three-way call discussing the deal.

Joe Biden is calling the agreement “a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East.”

The former U.S. vice-president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee issued a statement on Thursday, calling the agreement “a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship” and a “critical recognition that Israel is a vibrant, integral part of the Middle East that is here to stay.”

Biden also said that West Bank annexation by Israel “would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president” if he’s elected when the U.S. votes in November. He said that as president, he’d seek to foster a two-state solution in the Middle East.

‘Many positive implications’

Israeli lawmakers welcomed the establishment of full diplomatic relations with the U.A.E.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is also Israel’s “alternate” prime minister under a power sharing deal, said Thursday’s agreement expressed an “alliance” between countries in the region who aim for stability and prosperity.

He said the agreement will have “many positive implications” on the region and called on other Arab states to pursue peace deals with Israel.

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, seen in 2019, signed the deal between the U.A.E. and Israel Thursday. (Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters)

Gantz thanked Trump, calling him a “true friend of Israel.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, part of Gantz’s Blue and White party, said he welcomed Israel’s backing down from “unilateral annexation” of the West Bank, saying Trump’s Mideast plan would be discussed in consultation with countries in the region.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid said “negotiations and agreements, not unilateral steps like annexation” were key to Israel’s diplomatic relations.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also praised Thursday’s agreement, saying he “values the efforts of those in charge of the deal to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.”

Published at Thu, 13 Aug 2020 15:34:16 +0000