Palestinians Slam 'Betrayal' by UAE in Deal With Israel: 'Reward of the Occupation's Crimes'

UAE defends normalization with Israel, which it says 'stopped annexation of Palestinian lands,' while top PLO official lashes out at UAE for 'selling out' Palestinians

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A television screen shows Donald Trump as Palestinians follow the news on the UAE's agreement with Israel on normalizing relations, in Hebron, August 13, 2020.
A television screen shows Donald Trump as Palestinians follow the news on the UAE's agreement with Israel on normalizing relations, in Hebron, August 13, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

The announcement on Thursday of normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates drew harsh responses from Palestinian officials and organizations, with senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi accusing the crown prince of "selling out" her people and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas convening an emergency meeting of Palestinian leaders ahead of a statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he "rejects and denounces the surprising announcement by Israel, the United States and the UAE," and called it a "betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause." A senior adviser to Abbas read the statement from outside the PA president's Ramallah headquarters.

Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter. She also said the UAE has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

“Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” she wrote.

In another tweet, addressed at the UAE’s crown prince, she wrote: “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.’”

According to the agreement, brokered by the United States, Israel had agreed to stop plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

The Hamas militant group accused the United Arab Emirates of stabbing the Palestinians in the back by agreeing to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel. “This announcement is a reward for the Israeli occupation’s crimes,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “The normalization is a stabbing in the back of our people.”

Iran's Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the country's elite Revolutionary Guards, likewise slammed deal, saying it was "shameful."

While Iran's clerical leaders did not immediately react to the deal, a special adviser on international affairs to the speaker of Iran's parliament condemned it on Twitter. "UAE's new approach for normalizing ties w/fake, criminal #Israel doesn't maintain peace & security, but serves ongoing Zionists' crimes," tweeted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, also a former deputy foreign minister. "Abu Dhabi's behavior has no justification, turning back on the Palestine cause. W/ that strategic mistake, #UAE will be engulfed in Zionism fire."

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin meanwhile hailed an "impressive achievement" and said he has invited Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed to visit Jerusalem. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted an Israeli flag with a short message in Hebrew: “Historic Day.”

Several Israeli lawmakers meanwhile welcomed the news.

Flanked by David Friedman and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump speaks about a deal reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates from the Oval Office, August 13, 2020.
Flanked by David Friedman and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump speaks about a deal reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates from the Oval Office, August 13, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is also the so-called 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.

He thanked U.S. President Donald Trump, calling him a “true friend of Israel.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, part of Gantz’s Kahol Lavan 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.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomes "any initiative that can promote peace and security in the Middle East region," a UN spokesman said after the announcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the deal. “This is a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region,” he said in a statement. “It also illustrates their commitment to confronting common threats, as small — but strong — nations.”

He added: "Blessed are the peacemakers. Mabruk and Mazal Tov.”

'Death blow' to annexation

Top Emirati official Anwar Gargash told reporters Thursday that the move dealt a “death blow” to moves by Israel to annex Palestinian lands.

Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Thursday that the Emiratis wanted to “try and put one on one together” and develop an organic relationship that was already existing in many fields.

“Let us try and get something tangible,” he said.

He described it as a “bold step.” “We’ve come up with a realization,” he said. “Our relationship has not always been central... but we came out and argued that in every difficult political file in the region, when you do have bridges and contacts you become more important and influential in trying to affect results and trying to help.”

“The UAE is using its gravitas and promise of a relationship to unscrew a time bomb that is threatening a two-state solution,” Gargash said. When asked about a time frame for embassies opening, Gargash said it will not be long and “this is for real”. “We are not talking about step by step.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hend Al Otaiba defended the agreement in a tweet, saying: "The three-way call resulted in an agreement to stop Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. UAE has worked strenuously over the past months for this diplomatic achievement, which will bring stability to the region and support the peace process."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meanwhile reacted positively to the news. 

"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," Sisi said on Twitter.

"I value the efforts of those in charge of the deal to achieve prosperity and stability for our region."

Jordan said that the deal could push forward stalled peace negotiations if it succeeds in prodding Israel to accept a Palestinian state. "If Israel dealt with it as an incentive to end occupation ... it will move the region towards a just peace," Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a statement on state media.

The Gulf state of Bahrain welcomed an accord between the United Arab Emirates and Israel which stops Israeli annexation plans and raises the chances of peace, state news agency BNA said on Thursday.

The small island state of Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which has not yet commented on the agreement to normalize diplomatic ties announced on Thursday.

Bahrain praised the Untied States for its efforts towards securing the deal.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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