Israel and the United Arab Emirates have inked a deal to normalise relations, US President Donald Trump helped broker the deal. He called accord “historic” and a breakthrough toward peace.
Until now Israel has had no diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab countries. It marks only the third Israel-Arab peace deal since Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, after Egypt and Jordan.
“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, saying there would be a signing ceremony at the White House in the coming weeks.
Mr Netanyahu said Israel would co-operate with the UAE in developing a coronavirus vaccine, in energy, water, environmental protection and many other fields.
Over the next few weeks the nations will sign bilateral agreements in investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.
“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 joint statement says.
West Bank Annexation ‘Delayed’:
Israel will also “suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined” in President Trump’s Vision for Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, in which he backed an Israeli plan to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley.
Netanyahu said he had “delayed” West Bank annexation plans, but those plans remain “on the table”. Annexation would make some West Bank areas officially part of Israel.
“There is no change in my plan to apply our sovereignty to Judea and Samaria [West Bank] in full co-ordination with the US. I’m committed to it. That hasn’t changed. I remind you that I was the one who put the issue of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria on the table. This issue remains on the table,” he said.
‘Deal amounts to treason’: Palestine
The Palestinians have warned that such a move would destroy their hopes of a viable future independent state and violate international law.
Palestinian leaders were reportedly taken by surprise. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas said the deal amounted to “treason”, and the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE was being recalled.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “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”.
Iran’s foreign ministry called the accord “shameful”, according to state news agency IRNA. And in Gaza, the Hamas militant group called the deal a “stabbing in the back of our people.”
Analysts say the deal could mean a foreign policy victory for President Trump, who will seek re-election in November, and give a personal boost to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is on trial for alleged corruption.
Both leaders have seen their approval ratings drop because of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.