On Thursday, August 13th, 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) concluded a historic agreement, under the supervision of United States (US), which is meant to change the paradigm in the Middle East and to pave the way for further openness from Israel towards the Arab world.
The historic peace deal from Thursday will lead to full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations. Therefore, under the agreement, Israel agreed to suspend applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank that it has been discussing to annex.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to annex large portions of the West Bank as outlined in the Donald Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan. After the deal was concluded, during a televised address Thursday, Netanyahu said he is “committed to annexing parts of the West Bank” and that the suspension is only temporary.
It is Israel’s first treaty with an Arab country in 25 years. Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel because Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. As such, the announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.
“During a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories. The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperate and set a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted.
According to US officials, the deal was the product of lengthy discussions between Israel, the UAE, and the United States that accelerated recently.
A joint statement from all three countries adds the following: “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. All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement”.
Israeli and Emirati delegations are set to meet in the coming weeks to establish and sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.
However, the UAE confirmed it will not open an embassy in Jerusalem without reaching a Palestinian-Israeli agreement, according to a statement.
The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash hailed the move as a “tangible” act to “defusing a time bomb”. “The agreement to establish bilateral ties with Israel deals a “death blow” to the annexation of Palestinian lands”, he said of Thursday’s announcement. While deep political disagreements remain with Israel, Dr. Gargash said the announcement between the US, UAE, and Israel, “wasn’t perfect.” “Is it perfect? Nothing is perfect in a very difficult region,” he said. “But I think we used our political chips right,” he declared. On top of that, he added that the UAE had been contacted by several European countries in recent months asking what they could do to stop the annexation of much of the West Bank and Jordan Valley and pointed to “worry for countries worldwide” that if Israel went ahead with the threats, it would make a two-state solution impossible. In reference to US President Donald Trump’s roadmap for peace, Dr. Gargash explained that “the UAE has always been of the opinion that preserving communications and talks were necessary. The region cannot move forward without leadership initiatives,” he explained. “Fundamentally, our initiative is not to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict – this is left to the Palestinian and Israelis – rather it is to contribute to defusing a time bomb that was threatening the two-state solution”.
Meanwhile, the UAE embassy to the US issued a statement saying that the deal was a win for diplomacy and for the region that would lower tensions.
The UAE and Israel will also join the United States in launching a “Strategic Agenda for the Middle East,” focusing on diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation.
For President Trump, the deal is a significant diplomatic victory heading into November’s presidential election, while he also hopes other Muslim nations in the region will follow the UAE. His Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, hailed the milestone as one built on the “efforts of multiple administrations.”
Reactions from the international community
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi welcomed on Thursday, August 13th, 2020, the agreement between the UAE and Israel on normalizing ties that includes an Israeli agreement to halt further annexation of Palestinian lands. “I followed with interest and appreciation the joint statement between the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel to halt the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands and taking steps to bring peace in the Middle East,” Sisi said on Twitter. “I value the efforts of those in charge of the deal to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.”
The information minister of the Yemeni government in Sana’a also reacted by saying that the deal between the Israeli government and the UAE was a show of defiance by the enemies of Islam to all Muslims.
Yemen’s Ansarullah movement has also vehemently slammed the deal as a provocative move. The Gulf state of Bahrain welcomed the deal.
Reactions from the Palestinian community
The Palestinians are directly concerned by the current deal, due to the provisions and the engagements mentioned before, in what regards the suspension of the annexation of the Palestinian territories by Israel.
The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured in the 1967 Mideast war, while the Trump Mideast plan envisions granting Israel permanent control over 30% of that territory and offering Palestinians limited autonomy in the remainder. After embracing the plan, Netanyahu backed away from moving forward with annexation last month in the face of international opposition and misgivings by White House officials. Also, the Palestinians have rejected Trump’s Mideast plan out of hand and slammed the present deal, calling it a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause and demanded its retraction.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, convened a meeting of his leadership Thursday night, and afterward, his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the agreement amounted to “treason.” He added that the UAE must reverse the decision and urged other Arab countries not to follow suit “at the expense of Palestinian rights.”
Meanwhile, deputy secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Ahmad Fuad, was quoted by the al-Mayadeen news agency as saying that the UAE-Israel deal is a crime against the Palestinian people and their martyrs and will have no effect on the resistance front. He added that the Palestinian people will continue to confront Israel’s daily attempts to annex more Palestinian territories. “It is the Palestinian people who prevent further annexation of their lands by Israel, not the UAE and its leaders,” he said.
In Gaza, Hamas called the deal a “stabbing in the back of our people.” “This agreement encourages the occupation [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.
The Fatah movement said the UAE is “flouting its national, religious and humanitarian duties” toward the Palestinian cause.
Moreover, the official Palestinian news agency said the Palestinian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates is being recalled.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, said the UAE has “come out in the open on its secret dealings” with Israel. “Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” she posted on Twitter.
Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said the Israel-UAE is not about “peace in the Middle East”. “Let me tell you why. The UAE does not border Israel. The UAE does not have territorial or national claims with Israel. It is the Palestinians that have a problem with Israel, and the UAE [has] basically gone against the Arab Palestinian public opinion,” he said.
In addition, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement reacted rapidly by condemning the deal between the UAE and Israel. The movement noted that the normalization of ties between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi was a sign of submission on the latter’s part without having any effect on reducing conflicts in the occupied Palestinian territories. Islamic Jihad movement also noted that the deal will, on the other hand, further embolden the Israeli occupiers.
Sarah Leah Whitson, a pro-Palestinian activist, also took to Twitter to condemn the deal, saying it would not lead to any recognition of Palestinians’ rights. “Israel won’t formally annex and exercise sovereignty over the land it has for all intents and purposes already annexed and exercises sovereignty over… ZERO for the rights of Palestinians,” she wrote.
Popular Resistance Committees, which is a coalition of a number of Palestinian groups, also reacted to the UAE-Israel deal by noting that the agreement reveals the high volume of conspiracies against the Palestinian people and their sanctities.
Reactions from Iran
Iran played a major role in the closer ties between Israel and the Gulf States since the previous US government and other world powers signed the nuclear deal with Tehran in 2015. As such, the countries began cooperating on national security and that moved to other issues after the trust was built between them, to the point that normalization seemed inevitable.
On this note, in Iran, the deal was received with criticism, given the tension existing between Iran and US-Israel. Several media outlets questioned the objectives behind the agreement and highlighted the reasons which led to that conclusion.
First, as explained by journalists of Press TV channel, the deal encompasses the following elements:
- Israel will suspend “applying sovereignty to the West Bank” – which it already controls.
- It will give Muslims greater access to the Haram al-Sharif by permitting them to fly from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv – but what happens when the Muslims seek access to the Dome of the Rock?
- Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, were deeply involved in negotiating the deal.
As for the real aim of the project, the discourse states that it is directed at splitting the Arab world and engaging Israel with the Gulf countries. According to the media, the general perception is that it clearly aims at Iran. “Brian Hook, the [outgoing] US State Department’s lead official on Iran, said the agreement amounted to a “nightmare” for Iran in its efforts against Israel in the region.”
Trump and his advisers apparently see this as a continuation of the Camp David Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and Egypt in 1978. What’s worse is that this agreement is one between the only two nuclear states in the region. Apart from Israel, the UAE has four nuclear power stations, one now operating and three nearly completed.
Donald Trump’s “Historic Peace Agreement” has pushed the Middle East farther towards instability, nuclear energy, and general war, the deal is a call for redrawing the Middle East.
In support of their statement, journalists used a document published in 1982 by the senior advisor to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Oded Yinon, titled “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s.”
Its two essential premises include the following:
- To survive, Israel must dominate the region and become a world power.
- Achieving its imperial aims requires dividing Arab nations and Iran into small, easily controlled states – partitioning them along ethnic and sectarian lines as weakened Israeli satellites.
According to Yinon, “(t)he existence, prosperity, and steadfastness of (Israel) depend(s) upon its ability to adopt a new framework for its domestic and foreign affairs,” based on securing its material needs through winnable resource wars and Arab world divisions. “All the Arab States east of Israel are torn apart, broken up and riddled with inner conflicts even more than those of the Maghreb” (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, and Western Sahara).”
Reactions from the Iranian officials
Actors from the Iranian political spectrum have condemned in unison the decision of the UAE to normalize its relations with Israel. They talked about the betrayal of the Palestinian cause, of UAE’s subordination to the will of Israel, and assurances were given that the struggle for the liberation of Palestine would continue.
On August 14th, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which he strongly condemns the announcement, which he considers a “strategic nonsense” that will strengthen the “Axis of Resistance”. “The Palestinian people and the free nations will not forgive the states that are normalizing their relations with this usurping and criminal regime. Abu Dhabi’s action is shameful, illegal, and dangerous.” Tehran warns against any Israeli interference in Persian Gulf affairs. “The Abu Dhabi government and those who approve of this move will take full responsibility for the consequences.” The statement concluded that the UAE had “stabbed Palestinians and all Muslims” in the back.
Moreover, Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad ZARIF directly condemned the agreement “which is equivalent to stabbing Palestinians and other states in the region in the back”.
On the same date, President Hassan ROUHANI stated that the UAE made a serious mistake by signing an agreement with the enemy of the Islamic world, with the enemy of the region and with the murderer of the Palestinian nation. He also warned the UAE not to allow Israel to settle in the Persian Gulf region. “UAE leaders have chosen the wrong path and feel that if they attach to the Zionist regime and the US, their security will increase and their economy will flourish. Wrong. We hope for them to reconsider their position because it is a wrong step and a betrayal of Palestinian aspirations. For this reason, we unequivocally condemn the deal.”
For IRCG, the agreement is shameful and infamous. The official communiqué (issued on August 14th) also says that this agreement represents the biggest betrayal that the Palestinian cause has suffered. “The agreement with the Zionist regime is a strategic mistake and a poisoned knife stuck in the back of the Muslim community. […] The agreement is doomed to failure and will only hasten Israel’s disappearance.”
On August 14th, Mohsen REZAII, the secretary of the Maslehat Council and former commander of the IRCG between 1980 and 1997, wrote on his Twitter account that “only those without honor stick a knife in the Palestinians’ back. Palestine will be liberated and traitors will be wiped out of history. For 10 years, the UAE has been a paradise for Israel, where it has set up Mossad espionage networks to gather information from the region.”
On the same day, Abasaali KHADKHODAEE, spokesman for the Guardians’ Council, said that through this decision, the UAE had been occupied by Israel. “At the moment, for Israel, the occupation of the entrance to the Persian Gulf is more important than the occupation of all of Palestine.”
On top of that, Abolfazl AMOUEI, spokesman for the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy in Majles, said that the Palestinians are the ones who pay the price of the UAE shares. “Nothing will stop the Palestinians from liberating their territory, and the Muslim nations are supporting their resistance.”
In addition, Hossein Amir-ABDOLHIAN, the international affairs assistant to the president of Majles, declared that the normalization of relations will not lead to peace and stability, but will perpetuate the crimes of the Zionist regime. “The UAE’s behavior has no justification and is equivalent to turning its back on the aspirations of the Palestinians.”
This article was edited using data from the following websites: www.english.alarabiya.net, www.al-monitor.com, www.aljazeera.com, www.presstv.com, www.thenational.ae, www.accesswdun.com, www.arabnews.com, www.jpost.com, www.tasnimnews.com, www.mfa.ir/portal/NewsView, www.yjc.ir/fa/news, https://twitter.com/Kadkhodaee_ir/status/1294094064133038081, and https://twitter.com/ir_rezaee/status/1294116345261498368.