ASSOCIATED PRESS - Aug 13, 2020 -
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced Thursday they are establishing full diplomatic relations in a U.S.-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.
The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory to President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deal amounts to “treason,” and should be reversed.
The agreement makes the UAE the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full diplomatic ties with Israel. They announced it in a joint statement, saying deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, direct flights and embassies.
Trump called the deal “a truly historic moment.”
“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.
In a nationally televised news conference, Netanyahu echoed Trump’s remarks.
“Today we usher in a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world,” he said. “There is a good chance we will soon see more Arab countries joining this expanding circle of peace.”
But Netanyahu said the annexation plan was on “temporary hold,” appearing to contradict statements from Emirati officials who said it was off the table.
Emirati officials described the deal in pragmatic terms. Anwar Gargash, a top Emirati official, said they had dealt a “death blow” to an aggressive Israeli move and hoped to help reshape the region.
“Is it perfect? Nothing is perfect in a very difficult region,” Gargash added. “But I think we used our political chips right.”
Omar Ghobash, assistant minister for culture and public diplomacy, told The Associated Press: “I don’t think anything was written in stone. We are opening a door. We are hoping the Israelis will see the benefits to this step.”
“I would assume that this is political maneuvering within a very complex political society,” he added.
Israel and the UAE do not share a border and have never fought a war. But the UAE, like most of the Arab world, long rejected diplomatic ties with Israel in the absence of a peace deal establishing a Palestinian state on lands captured by Israel in 1967.