Israel's Cabinet Endorses UAE Deal; Netanyahu, Crown Prince Agree to Meet 'Soon'

Leaders 'examined prospects for peace and the need for stability, cooperation and development in the region' in phone call, ahead of Knesset vote on agreement

Noa Landau
Reuters
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Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Washington, September 15, 2020/
Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Washington, September 15, 2020/Credit: TOM BRENNER/Reuters
Noa Landau
Reuters

The Israeli government on Monday voted in favor of ratifying the normalization accord with the United Arab Emirates. Ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held a phone call to discuss strengthening bilateral ties and the prospects for peace in the region.

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The vote on the U.S.-brokered , which involves establishing full diplomatic and economic ties, will now be subject to a Knesset vote to take place on Thursday. The government will then formally ratify the agreement.

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UAE state media quoted Prince Mohammed, saying "We discussed strengthening bilateral ties and examined prospects for peace and the need for stability, cooperation and development in the region."

Netanyahu said in a statement they "agreed to meet soon," adding he believes the Knesset will vote for ratifying the agreement, which "has massive support in Israel."

Prince Mohammed tweeted on Monday that he and Netanyahu had discussed strengthening bilateral ties and the prospects for peace in the region.

Netanyahu told the cabinet that said that "This is the first peace agreement that Israel has signed in over 25 years. At the same time, we are concluding the agreements with Bahrain."

The prime minister also said that "This agreement differs from its predecessors in that Israel does not give up any territory," adding that the deal will mean "The opening of the skies of Saudi Arabia to Israeli planes, planes from Israel and planes to Israel. This means that Israel ceases to be a dead end, but becomes a major crossroads."

Netanyahu spoke by telephone over the weekend with Prince Mohammed, the prime minister said in a statement, noting that in light of the widespread support for the agreement in Israel, the Prime Minister believes that the agreement will be approved by the Knesset without delay.

Netanyahu also said that Israel expects to welcome the UAE delegation on October 20. The Emirati finance and economy ministers will attend the delegation with their professional teams to promote investment, aviation arrangements, science and technology agreements and embassy exchanges with Israel.

The UAE crown prince is not expected to be part of this delegation. This will be a reciprocal visit following the Israeli delegation's visit to Abu Dhabi in August.

The agreement includes a commitment to continuing efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, alongside understandings in other spheres such as finance and investment, civil aviation, trade and economic relations. The  is not mentioned in the agreement, an issue that has stirred controversy as it might jeopardize Israel's air superiority and qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

A similar deal was signed with Bahrain, which an Israeli-American delegation will visit starting Sunday for talks. The delegation is likely to be headed by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who should be joined by special envoy Avi Berkowitz. On the Israeli side, the Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz will join the delegation.

The Palestinians have been critical of the deal. Palestinians fear the moves will weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab states.

President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian leadership regarded the Gulf states' move as "a betrayal." Veteran Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters the deal was "a complete sell-out."

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Berlin on Tuesday to meet with his Emirati and German counterparts to discuss further steps in normalizing ties. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said he hoped the improved relations with Israel would provide “new impetus toward stability and peace” in the Middle East.

The normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain are known as the Abraham Accords. Netanyahu flew to Washington last month for an  with the foreign ministers of the two Gulf states, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration brokered the deal.

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