The tripartite US-brokered Israel-United Arab Emirates (UAE) deal on the announcement of full normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE came as a surprise. But, in reality, it was not that shocking, as both countries had secret relations for years.
The deal will include areas of security, tourism, technology, energy, culture, healthcare, environment and trade, in return for suspending Israel’s annexation plans in the West Bank, according to Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the UAE.
Under the terms of the deal, US President Donald Trump stated: “Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshipers of all faiths.” This emotional tweet by Trump personally aims to soften the possible angry reaction from within the Arab and Muslim world, a persuasive tactic to show the positive side of it – that normalisation is the key to enter Jerusalem’s holy sites.
However, Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who could not conceal his joy, confirmed that annexation was temporarily suspended and will always remain on his agenda.
The deal will be added to his credit for being the Israeli official who managed to transform a strong foe into a friend, bringing a new Arab ally to his side. His pride stems from the fact that he failed to fulfil his promise to annex parts of the West Bank due to global pressure, including from the UAE itself. But the credit for making this deal possible goes to Trump, as he was hoping to call it “Trump’s Deal”. Some Palestinians mocked Netanyahu, stating that he failed to annex the West Bank but he managed to annex UAE.
Palestinians in general, both on the official and popular level, consider it a stab in the back, reacting angrily to the agreement. Representatives of different Palestinian factions condemned the move, with harsh tones.
Demonstrations and sit-in protests took place after Friday prayer in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, calling on the UAE to reconsider its decision. They chanted slogans decrying the declaration as a betrayal of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Palestinians argue that the public announcement of the normalisation deal was reached at the expense of the Palestinian cause. Indeed, it was a painful decision from an Arab country for Palestinians to absorb, because it whitewashes Israel’s occupation policies, and mistreatment and human rights violations toward their Arab fellows – the Palestinians – as the prolonged decades-long military occupation of Palestinian land still persists.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned the trilateral statement by the US, Israel and the UAE, calling for an immediate emergency session of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to reject this declaration. Furthermore, it described Abu Dhabi’s decision as a de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The Palestinian leadership considers the move a blow to the Arab peace initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, as well as an aggression against the Palestinian people,” communicated Nabil Abu Rudaina, spokesman of the Palestinian presidency.
The Secretary-General of the Fatah Central Committee Jebril Rajoub also expressed his party’s rejectionist stance stating that: “If Sheikh Zayd (founder of the UAE) was alive, he would not accept this disgrace.”
Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO Executive Committee tweeted, in response to a tweet by Abu Dhabi’s crown prince on his announcement of the normalisation deal, conveying: “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’.”
On the other hand, Hamas-ruled Gaza also slammed Abu Dhabi, describing the deal as a cowardly move. “The Emirati position will go down in history as a black chapter in the history of the leaders of Abu Dhabi. The cowardly move is a flagrant attack on Palestinians national, historical and religious rights,” a statement from the resistance group read.
The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, the second-largest resistance group, also expressed its dismay and described the move as “the shame deal”.
On the other hand, Oman and Egypt welcomed the agreement and hope it will lead to true peace in the Middle East, while Turkey and Iran condemned it.
The stark irony is painful – while both Israel and the UAE celebrated the deal, Tel Aviv bombed Gaza with a series of F16 airstrikes targeting different locations across Gaza. Air and ground attacks on the besieged Gaza have been the norm for the past 20 years, but the latest attack was very bitter to see that the Emirati flag was lit onto the Tel Aviv municipality building in celebration, with Netanyahu and many other Israeli and US officials including Trump describing the move as a historic day.
As the show will go on, a high-profile Emirati delegation headed by the, Mossad chief will travel to Abu Dhabi to discuss the opening of embassies in the two countries. The Emirates hopes to establish itself as a major player in the Middle East and it now has a title for being in the lead in terms of technological developments. This will be an asset for Israel which is eager to have a strong Arab partner in this regard under the slogan of making peace, whereas the real peace should be achieved with the Palestinians who have been struggling for self-determination. Palestinians have been let down many times by their fellow Arabs, and it is clear that they are alone in facing Israel’s crushing bulldozers, F16’s, tanks and drones.
Now, the Palestinians are backed into a corner and the financial support they receive is, and will always be, conditional under US pressure. Either you are on the US, Israel and the UAE’s side, or you are out. But Palestinians who survived over 70 years of military occupation will ensure that their cause is not for sale, and that history will not be wiped.
The UAE has now become the third Arab country to have full normalisation with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively. The rich gulf country will not be the last – Oman, Qatar and Bahrain might be next, as they already have unofficial diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv and expressed their support for Trump’s “deal of the century”, announced back in January this year.
Now the future relationship remains to be seen between the PA led by Mahmoud Abbas, and the UAE which hosts Mohammad Dahlan, the former Fatah leader who was expelled by Abbas in 2011, and whether or not he will play any role in the politics of the region.