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Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement

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File:United Arab Emirates Israel Locator.png
Location of Israel (blue) and the UAE (red) within the Middle East

The Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement, or the Abraham Accord,[1] was agreed to by Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 13, 2020. If an agreement is signed, the UAE will be the third Arab country, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, to formally normalize its relationship with Israel,[1][2][3] as well as the first Persian Gulf country to do so.[4][5] Concurrently, Israel agreed to suspend plans for annexing parts of the West Bank.[4][6]

Background

As early as 1971, the year in which the UAE became an independent country, the first president of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had referred to Israel as "the enemy."[7] In November 2015, Israel announced that it would open a diplomatic office in the UAE, which would be the first time in more than a decade that Israel had an official presence in the Persian Gulf.[8] In August 2019, Israel's foreign minister made a public declaration about military cooperation with the UAE amidst rising tensions with Iran.[9]

In the months leading up to the agreement, Israel had been working in secret with the UAE to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. European news media reported that Mossad had discreetly obtained health equipment from Gulf states.[10][11] Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, reported at the end of June 2020 that the two countries were in cooperation to fight the coronavirus and that the head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, had traveled numerous times to the UAE. However, the UAE appeared to downplay this a few hours later by revealing that it was merely an arrangement among private companies rather than at state level.[12]

The move also comes following the termination of the Iran nuclear deal by the Trump administration and persistent Israeli suspicions that the Iranian nuclear program includes a program to develop atomic bomb capacities, something which Tehran denies. Currently, Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in backing different factions in proxy wars from Syria to Yemen, with the UAE supporting the Saudi-led and US-sponsored coalition against the Iran-aligned forces.[13][14] In recent years, the countries' informal relations warmed considerably and they engaged in extensive unofficial cooperation based on their joint opposition to Iran's nuclear program and regional influence.[15]

The agreement is also officially called the "Abraham Accord" in honor of Abraham, the patriarch of the three major Abrahamic religions of the world—Judaism, Islam and Christianity.[16]

Agreement

File:President Trump Delivers a Statement from the Oval Office 01.jpg
US President Donald Trump announces to the media the agreement from the Oval Office at the White House, August 13, 2020

On August 13, 2020, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, announced the UAE’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel saying that his country wanted to deal with the threats facing the two-state solution, specifically annexation of the Palestinian territories, and urging the Palestinians and Israelis to return to the negotiating table. He indicated that he did not think that there will be any embassy in Jerusalem until after there is a final agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.[17] According to U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security."[18]

A joint statement issued by Trump, Netanyahu, and Zayed, read: "This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region."[13] The UAE said it would continue to support the Palestinian people and that the agreement would maintain the prospect of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Despite the agreement however, Netanyahu stated that Israel's sovereignty claim to the Jordan Valley was still on the agenda and only frozen for the time being.[13]

Zayed tweeted that "UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship."[2]

It is expected that the peace accord will be signed in the White House in early September.[19]

Reactions

Middle East

Israel

Prime Minister Netanyahu said there was "no change" to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank if it was approved by the US, but added they were on temporary hold.[20] Before the agreement, the plan to annex 30% of the West Bank were already on hold due to a majority of Israelis and the government coalition partner Benny Gantz rejected the plan. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers live in the areas, in additions to Palestinans, which were under Israeli control in practice.[21]

Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality Mayor Ron Huldai, congratulated Netanyahu on the "double achievement" of peace with the UAE and shelving of plans to annex parts of the West Bank.[22] Huldai also lit up the Tel Aviv City Hall with the flag of the UAE.[23]

The head of the Israeli settler group Yesha, David Elhayani, accused Netanyahu of "betraying" some of his most loyal supporters and having "deceived half a million residents of the area and hundreds of thousands of voters." Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, a settlement of more than 9,000 residents south of Jerusalem, supported Netanyahu, arguing that "the Israeli agreement to postpone the application of Israeli law in the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is a fair price [to pay]."[24]

Gulf states

Yousef Al Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to the United States, issued a statement extolling the agreement as "a win for diplomacy and for the region", adding how it "lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change".[5][25]

Bahrain, the first Gulf Arab country to comment publicly on the announcement, congratulated the UAE leadership and welcomed the deal as "steps to enhance the chances for Middle East peace."[22] The government of Oman also publicly supported the agreement (which it termed "historic").[26]

Palestinian

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Hanan Ashrawi lambasted the agreement, writing on Twitter that "Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it's been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the beginning of the occupation."[4] Fatah accused the UAE of "flouting its national, religious and humanitarian duties" towards the Palestinian people, while Hamas said it was a "treacherous stab in the back of the Palestinian people"[4] and claimed the agreement was a "free reward" for Israeli "crimes and violations against the Palestinian people."[24]

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, senior adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, read an official statement in which the Palestinian leadership rejected the agreement, terming it a betrayal against Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque and the Palestinians.[27] The Palestinian Authority recalled its ambassador from Abu Dhabi.[28][29]

Iran

Iran's Tasnim News Agency said the Israel–UAE deal was "shameful."[30] The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the deal as a "dangerous" stab in the back of Palestinians and Muslims, terming it a "shameful" act of "strategic stupidity" by the UAE and Israel that would only serve to strengthen the "Axis of Resistance" in the Middle East. It added that the Palestinians and people of the world would never forgive UAE, while also warning it against Israel interfering in the Gulf.[31]

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned UAE that it will face dangerous repercussions for the deal. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani termed the agreement a "huge mistake" and warned UAE against permitting Israel to have a secure presence in the Gulf. Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called it a betrayal against Arab and non-Arab countries in the Middle East.[32]

Turkey

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the agreement, saying history and the people of Middle East would neither forgive nor forget what UAE did, and that it was a violation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. It called UAE's behavior hypocritical and added that the Palestinians were correct in rejecting the agreement.[33]

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later stated that Turkey was considering cutting off diplomatic relations with UAE in retaliation, as well as recalling its ambassador from Abu Dhabi.[33] The Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın also expressed concerns regarding the deal to the American National Security Advisor Robert C. O'Brien.[34]

Others

The Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi welcomed the deal, saying that he praises the parties' efforts to "achieve prosperity and stabilization in our region." He also personally congratulated Emirate of Abu Dhabi's crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan for the deal.[35]

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the agreement should be followed up by Israel abandoning any plan to annex parts of West Bank and if the deal could lead to its withdrawal from Palestinian territories, it would move Middle East closer to peace. Otherwise, it would only exacerbate the Arab-Israeli conflict.[36]

United States

Kelly Craft, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, celebrated the announcement, calling it "a huge win" for President Trump and for the world, saying that the diplomatic ties show "just how hungry for peace we all are in this world," and how Middle Eastern countries are all understanding the need "to stand firm against a regime that is the number one state sponsor of terrorism" — Iran.[22]

Jared Kushner, a Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, stated while speaking to CBS News that the deal would make the Middle East more peaceful and hopeful, which would mean fewer American troops would need to be deployed in the region.[37] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the deal was an important step toward stabilizing the region and was good for the whole world.[38]

Europe

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded the agreement as a pathway to achieving peace in the Middle East and also praised suspension of annexation of areas in West Bank. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian voiced similar sentiments, with the former adding that it was time for direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, while the latter stated that it created an opportunity for resuming the talks.[39]

France and Germany saw the agreement as keeping hopes up for a two-state solution.[21] A European Commission spokeswoman said the deal was an important for both Israel and UAE, in addition to ensuring their stability. Italy meanwhile hoped that it would usher in peace and stability in the Middle East. It also called Israel's suspension of annexation of parts of West Bank positive and hoped it will restart talks with Palestianians for a two-state solution.[40]

United Nations

UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed "any initiative that can promote peace and security in the Middle East region."[41] Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' spokesman, praised the deal, stating that it suspended "Israeli annexation plans over parts of the occupied West Bank" which Guterres had repeatedly called for, and stated that "peace in the Middle East is more important than ever".[42]

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov welcomed the deal too, adding that it would stop Israel's annexation plans which the UN has repeatedly called for to be stopped and hoped it will restart dialogue between Israel and Palestinians.[42]

Analysis

According to Lisa Goldman, co-founder of +972, Netanyahu "never intended to annex" parts of 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."[43]

According to Ellie Geranmayeh, analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the agreement is unlikely to be a game-changer for Iran, since the latter had long assumed that the countries have had secret relations for a long time.[44]

According Hannu Juusola at University of Helsinki, the agreement meant that Palestinians would think that UAE put its own interests before those of the Palestinians, who had always assumed that Arab countries would not sign peace treaties with Israel before the rights of Palestinians had been guaranteed.[21]

See also

References

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External links