Why is Benjamin Netanyahu pushing for the annexation now?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he agreed to delay annexation in the occupied West Bank as part of a normalisation deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but the plans remain “on the table”.
Israel and the UAE agreed on Thursday to normalise diplomatic ties in a landmark deal – brokered by the United States – according to which Tel Aviv had pledged to halt annexation of Palestinian lands.
A joint statement issued by the three nations said “Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty” over the occupied West Bank areas.
However, in a television address after US President Donald Trump’s announcement of the deal, Netanyahu said he had only agreed to “delay” the annexation, and that he would “never give up our rights to our land”.
“There is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full coordination with the United States,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem, using the biblical name for the occupied West Bank.
Meanwhile, a tweet by the UAE’s leader indicated the Gulf state viewed Israel’s annexation plans as being off the table.
“An agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan posted on Twitter.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told a media briefing that “most countries will see this as a bold step to secure a two-state solution, allowing time for negotiations”.
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 cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship.
— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) August 13, 2020
Israel claims the occupied West Bank territory as part of the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
As outlined in Trump’s controversial Middle East proposal unveiled in January, Israel plans to annex roughly 30 percent of the occupied West Bank.
Trump’s proposal had triggered global outcry and threats of retaliation against Israel, including from the European Union.
While Netanyahu hailed “a new era” between Israel and the Arab world following the deal with the UAE, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas voiced his “strong rejection and condemnation” and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League.
In a statement, Abbas called the deal an “aggression” against the Palestinian people and a “betrayal” of their cause, including their claim to Jerusalem as a capital of their future state.
Hamas, the group that controls the besieged Gaza Strip, rejected the Israel-UAE pact as “a reward for the Israeli occupation and crimes” and said it “does not serve the Palestinian people”.
The Palestinian foreign ministry said it has recalled its ambassador to the UAE in response to the deal, The Associated Press reported late on Thursday.