The United Arab Emirates has become the first Gulf Arab country to reach a deal on normalising relations with Israel, capping years of discreet contacts between the two countries in commerce and technology.
The so-called “Abraham Agreement”, announced by United States President Donald Trump on Thursday, secures an Israeli commitment to halt further annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank.
However, addressing reporters later in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he agreed to “delay” the annexation as part of the deal with the UAE, but the plans remain “on the table”.
The UAE is also the third Arab nation to reach such a deal with Israel, after Jordan and Egypt.
Here is how other nations and the various stakeholders in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reacted to the Israel-UAE deal:
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the accord.
“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising announcement,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Abbas.
Abu Rudeineh, reading from a statement outside Abbas’s headquarters in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said the deal was a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause.”
Hanan Ashrawi, an outspoken member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee who has served in various leadership positions in Palestine, said the UAE’s announcement was the equivalent of being “sold out” by “friends”.
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." https://t.co/CBaNl1QQqx
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) August 13, 2020
Hamas rejected the US-brokered deal establishing formal ties between Israel and the UAE in exchange for Israel dropping its plans to annex land in the occupied West Bank, saying it did not serve the cause of the Palestinians.
“This agreement does absolutely not serve the Palestinian cause, it rather serves the Zionist narrative. This agreement encourages the occupation [by 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.
“What is required is to support the legitimate struggle of our people against the occupation and not to establish agreements with this occupier, and any annexation we will face by a Palestinian confrontation that is supported by the Arabs and internationally, and not by signing normalisation agreements with them [Israel].”
United Arab Emirates
The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, defended the deal. The decision by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayan to normalise ties with Israel reflected “badly needed realism,” he said.
“While the peace decision remains basically a Palestinian-Israeli one, the bold initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has allowed, by banishing the spectre of annexing Palestinian lands, more time for peace opportunities through the two-state solution,” Gargash said in a series of tweets.
“Developing normal ties in return for this is a realistic approach forwarded by the Emirates,” he said. “The successful decision is to take and give. This has been achieved.”
Jordan said that the UAE-Israel deal could push forward stalled peace negotiations if it succeeds in prodding Israel to accept a Palestinian state on land that Israel had occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
“If Israel dealt with it as an incentive to end occupation … it will move the region towards a just peace,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a statement on state media.
Israel’s failure to do this would only deepen the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict and threaten the security of the region as a whole, Safadi said.
Safadi said the agreement must be followed by Israel ending any unilateral moves to annex territory in the occupied West Bank that “obstruct peace prospects and violate Palestinian rights”.
“The region is at a crossroads … continued occupation and denial of the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights won’t bring peace or security,” Safadi added.
Jewish settler groups
The move angered right-wing Israeli settlers who want to annex the West Bank.
Netanyahu said that while he had promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to areas, including Jewish settlements, in the territory, which Palestinians seek for a future state, he had made clear he first needed a green light from Washington.
“He deceived us. He has deceived half a million residents of the area and hundreds of thousands of voters,” said David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council of settlers.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a close ally of the UAE, welcomed the agreement.
“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,” el-Sisi said on Twitter.
تابعت بإهتمام و تقدير بالغ البيان المشترك الثلاثي بين الولايات المتحدة الامريكية و دولة الامارات العربية الشقيقة وإسرائيل حول الاتفاق علي ايقاف ضم إسرائيل للاراضي الفلسطينية ..١/٢
— Abdelfattah Elsisi (@AlsisiOfficial) August 13, 2020
“I value the efforts of those in charge of the deal to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.”
The Gulf state of Bahrain welcomed the accord between the UAE and Israel, state news agency BNA said.
The small island state of Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which has not yet commented on the agreement.
Bahrain praised the United States for its efforts towards securing the deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decried the deal as a “huge mistake”.
“The Emirate rulers think that if they approach America and the Zionist regime, their security will improve and their economy will grow,” Rouhani said. “But this is totally wrong.”
The Iranian leader said the UAE-Israel deal was a “betrayal of the Palestinian cause”.
The Iranian foreign ministry denounced the deal as an act of “strategic stupidity from Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv”.
“The oppressed people of Palestine and all the free nations of the world will never forgive the normalising of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime and the complicity in its crimes,” a ministry statement said.
“This is stabbing the Palestinians in the back and will strengthen the regional unity against the Zionist regime.”
Iran’s Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated to the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said the deal between Israel and the UAE on normalising ties was “shameful”.
Turkey said history will not forget and never forgive the “hypocritical behaviour” of the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to a deal with Israel to normalise relations.
The Palestinian people and administration were right to react strongly against the agreement, the foreign ministry said.
“History and the conscience of the region’s peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behaviour of the UAE, betraying the Palestinian cause for the sake of its narrow interests,” it said in a statement.
“It is extremely worrying that the UAE should, with a unilateral action, try and do away with the  Arab Peace Plan developed by the Arab League. It is not in the slightest credible that this three-way declaration should be presented as supporting the Palestinian cause.”
Oman said it backed the normalisation of ties between the neighbouring United Arab Emirates and Israel, and hoped the move would help achieve a lasting Middle East peace.
A foreign ministry spokesman expressed the sultanate’s “support for the UAE’s decision regarding relations with Israel”, according to a statement on Oman’s official news agency.
Germany welcomed the “historic” deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The normalisation of ties between the two countries “is an important contribution to peace in the region”, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the agreement between Israel and the UAE.
“The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalise relations is hugely good news,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”
Following the UAE-Israel normalisation agreement, Pakistan’s foreign ministry noted that such development is “with far-reaching implications”.
“Pakistan has an abiding commitment to the full realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination. Peace and stability in the Middle East region is also Pakistan’s key priority,” read a statement released by the ministry.
“Pakistan’s approach will be guided by our evaluation of how Palestinians’ rights and aspirations are upheld and how regional peace, security and stability are preserved.”
France welcomed Israel’s decision to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank under the historic agreement, calling it a “positive step”, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement, adding that the suspension “must become a definitive measure”.
The accord paved the way for a resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians with the aim to establish two states, he said, calling it “the only option” to achieve peace in the region.
UAE's new approach for normalizing ties w/fake, criminal #Israel doesn't maintain peace & security, but serves ongoing Zionists' crimes. Abu Dhabi behavior has no justification, turning back on the Palestine cause. W/ that strategic mistake, #UAE will be engulfed in Zionism fire. pic.twitter.com/NDNy94laa8
— H.amirabdollahian (@Amirabdolahian) August 13, 2020
Spain welcomed the agreement reached to normalise relations between Israel and the UAE, hoping that “Israel’s commitment to suspend the annexing of parts of the West Bank will become permanent,” read a statement released by the country’s foreign ministry.
The Government of #Spain welcomes the agreement reached to normalise relations between #Israel and the #UAE, both important partners of Spain in the #MiddleEast, and the role played by the #USA to this end.
— Spain MFA (@SpainMFA) August 14, 2020
“Spain hopes that this agreement will contribute to regional peace and to the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Palestine, with a view to the establishment of two States living in peace and security, based on international parameters to achieve a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable solution for the parties.”
In a statement, Democratic United States presidential candidate Joe Biden said: “The UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship … A Biden-Harris Administration will seek to build on this progress, and will challenge all the nations of the region to keep pace.”
Biden also addressed annexation: “Annexation would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president,” he said.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, said he hoped the normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE can help realise a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
“The secretary-general welcomes this agreement, hoping it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realise a two state-solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements,” a spokesman for Guterres said in a statement.
“The secretary-general will continue to work with all sides to open further possibilities for dialogue, peace and stability,” the spokesman added.
Reactions on Twitter
Lisa Goldman, co-founder of 972Mag, a news and commentary site focused on Israel and Palestine, said, “Netanyahu never intended to annex” the West Bank, but the UAE is “claiming a diplomatic victory in exchange for what’s probably a lot of very valuable security cooperation from Israel. All on the backs of Palestinians, as usual.”
Netanyahu never intended to annex the W. Bank. But here we are, with the UAE claiming a diplomatic victory in exchange for what's probably a lot of very valuable security cooperation from Israel. All on the backs of Palestinians, as usual. https://t.co/bpGp4B81JS
— Lisa Goldman (@lisang) August 13, 2020
The move also struck some Palestinians as ill-timed and insulting for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in the UAE.
Mohammed Hemish, who works in communications at al-Shabaka, the premier Palestinian policy network, chided the UAE for its treatment of Palestinians who moved to the Emirates after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, which displaced more than 700,000 Palestinians, and subsequent wars that displaced more.
OK … so this what hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in the UAE and have given blood and sweat for the building it deserve: an announcement by a far right US president of a normalization deal with a far right Israeli govt. pic.twitter.com/Wpn0xL8WLD
— Mohammed (@MohamedHemish) August 13, 2020
The left-wing advocacy group J Street welcomed announcements that Israel is suspending plans to annex parts of the West Bank and that the UAE and Israel are taking steps to establish more normalised ties.
“Clarification will be needed that this is not simply a short-term suspension of a disastrous idea, and the United States and the international community should be demanding that Israel commit permanently not to proceed with any unilateral annexation,” the group said in a statement.
“The agreement between Israel and the UAE to move toward fully normalized ties is also welcome news for all who wish to see a stable and prosperous Israel living in peace and security alongside all of its regional neighbours,” the statement read. “It is just the latest evidence that dialogue and diplomacy, rather than unilateral action and belligerence, are the route to long-term security.”
Ras Mubarak, a parliamentarian in Ghana, called the UAE’s move “a betrayal” of the Palestinian people, comparing their plight to that of Black South Africans during the apartheid era.
“During the South African people’s struggle against apartheid, African states formed the frontline of resistance against Pretoria’s brutal regime. From Zambia to Tanzania, to Ghana and Algeria, countries across the African continent provided logistical, political and economic support to South Africa’s liberation struggle,” Mubarak said in a statement.
“All Arab states must treat The apartheid state of Israel in the same way that African states treated apartheid South Africa. There can be no normalization of ties with Israel while the Palestinian people are still occupied; there can be no normalization of ties while Israel still practices apartheid, colonialism and siege against the Palestinians.”