President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians.
The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to establish active diplomatic ties to Israel and only the third Arab nation to do so.
Trump tweeted a statement from the countries acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”
HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2020
“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.
The recognition grants Trump a diplomatic win. Israel and the UAE have been among his administration’s closest foreign allies.
For Israel, the announcement comes after years of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged.
For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its international campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers.
And for the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing, the announcement marked both a win and setback.
While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.
“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter.
Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation. The UAE has come out in the open on its secret dealings/normalization with Israel. Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf! https://t.co/6e8x7EhF2v
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) August 13, 2020
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the deal by the Emirates “a stabbing in the back of our people.”
The joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care.
“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economies will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said.
Joint Statement of the United States, the State of Israel, and the United Arab Emirates pic.twitter.com/oVyjLxf0jd
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2020
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the deal.
“This is a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region,” he said in a statement.
“It also illustrates their commitment to confronting common threats, as small — but strong — nations.”
He added: “Blessed are the peacemakers. Mabruk and Mazal Tov.”
Netanyahu tweeted an Israeli flag with a short message in Hebrew: “Historic Day.”
Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel.
Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999, but later ended relations in 2009 over the Israel’s war in Gaza at the time.
In addition to Trump, the main U.S. mediators for agreement were the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, special Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.
The UAE is a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Formed in 1971, the country, like other Arab nations at the time, did not recognize Israel.
But in recent years, relations between Gulf Arab nations and Israel have quietly improved, in part over their shared enmity of Iran and the Lebanese Islamic militant group Hezbollah. Prince Mohammed also shares Israel’s distrust of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
The agreement gives Netanyahu a domestic boost at a time when Israel’s shaky coalition government is plagued by infighting and facing the possibility of early elections in the coming months.
Netanyahu also risked criticism inside his own Likud Party, whose members strongly supported the annexation of lands sought by Palestinians.
Netanyahu appears to be betting that Likud members will agree that the peace agreement delivers more benefits than unilateral annexation.
Next year, Israel will take part in the UAE’s delayed Expo 2020, the world’s fair being hosted by Dubai. The UAE also has announced plans to build the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, which will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue.
Israelis traveling with Western passports routinely enter the UAE without a problem, though one still can’t make a phone call between the two countries. Israelis work in Dubai’s gold and diamond trade as well.
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