Palestinians express anger at UAE following US-brokered accord with Israel

Palestinians say UAE decision to normalize relations with Israel is a crime.

al-monitor City Hall in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv is lit up in the colors of the United Arab Emirates national flag on Aug. 13, 2020. Israel and the UAE agreed to normalize relations in a landmark US-brokered deal, only the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation.  Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 14, 2020

Palestinian officials reacted with anger to the Aug. 13 announcement of a US-brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that includes fully normalized relations, describing the accord as a “crime."

Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Al-Monitor that the tripartite US-UAE-Israel agreement “is a crime by the UAE against Palestinians.” Shaath said there is "no justification for the action of the sons of the late Sheikh Zayed, who was genuinely committed to the Palestinian cause.” Shaath said the UAE decision comes at a time when there is no Arab consensus, no high-level meetings taking place and no deterrence of Israel.

Shaath questioned the claim that the UAE brought about the postponement of annexation of parts of the West Bank, given that Israel itself has repeatedly said the decision on annexation is dependent on the United States. Shaath said the Emirati leaders "didn’t even consult with the owners of the land, the Palestinians."

“This is a free gift to Israel. The Emirates are selling us out. Why?" he asked

Meanwhile, Mustafa Barghouti, an independent yet moderate Palestinian legislator and leader of the relatively small Mubadara party, captured many Palestinian feelings when he called the Israeli-UAE agreement a “stab in the back of Palestinians.” 

A senior Palestinian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that he is worried that the UAE action could be dangerous if others, especially Saudi Arabia, follow suit. “What we are worried about is not the UAE, because we have always known that they had secret dealings with Israel and they wanted to expand these dealings for economic reasons. What we are worried about is whether this action will have a ripple effect with other Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia."

Hamadeh Faraneh, a columnist with the Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour, said the Emirati decision on the agreement is neither surprising nor historic. “Everyone knew that the Emirates have had an unannounced relationship with Israel, the only difference now is that it will become public.”

Naser Laham, a leading Palestinian columnist and editor-in-chief of the Maan News Network, told Al-Monitor that the Israeli-UAE agreement is nothing more than a business deal. Laham said the Emirates are stealing the credit from another Arab country that actually stopped the annexation. “What stopped the annexation is Jordan and the king of Jordan and not the Emiratis who are trying to claim credit for the work of the Jordanians and others.”

Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Center, told Al-Monitor that the deal is a "win-win-win-lose."

“Rarely in the Middle East do the interests of three key parties meet while it undermines the interest of a fourth,” he said. Miller believes that this trilateral deal allows the UAE to demonstrate its independence and resolve, gets the Donald Trump administration out of the difficulty of having to make a decision on annexation and boosts Netanyahu, who has been sagging in polls.

The former peace envoy to the region said the big loser in this agreement is the Palestinians. "They not only get nothing out of this deal, but this deal allows Israel to claim that it is not an unaccepted state in the region because it has wide relations with Arab countries.” Miller said the Trump administration gets a boost also without exerting any effort, adding, “Trump doesn’t care about peace, he only cares about his image."

Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Al-Monitor that the US-Israel-UAE agreement is a major blow to Israeli annexationists. “Their champion just decided to lock annexation in a box and gave the keys to the US and the UAE. His actions convey that relations with the Arab world is paramount and mutually exclusive with annexation.” Zalzberg said. He indicated that the agreement is unlikely to speed up the holding of new elections in Israel, saying, “It looks like Netanyahu will first see what the polls will now show. But it seems this won't speed up election.”

Johnny Mansour, a Haifa-based Palestinian academic, told Al-Monitor that the Israeli-American attempts to break up the region are aimed at showing that the Palestinian cause is not an obstacle for mutual relations between Israel and the Gulf countries who have a common enemy in Iran. “This plan is aimed at trying to force Palestinians to cooperate with Israel to accept settlements, while opposing annexation so as to create a weak, splintered, unarmed Palestinian state that is not contiguous,” Mansour said.

Political analyst Hamadeh Farneh told Al-Monitor that so long as Palestinians live on their land the struggle will continue. “All causes of the struggle are still there. A racist occupation will keep the struggle going, even if all Arab capitals normalized relations with Israel. This will not end the Palestinians' struggle," Farneh said.

Others mixed humor with their anger, with Palestinians joking on social media that Israel's prime minister was unable to annex the Jordan Valley so he annexed the United Arab Emirates instead.

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