‘Despicable, a betrayal’: PA blasts Emirates, demands retraction of Israel deal

Ramallah recalls envoy to Abu Dhabi; Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi minister all praise agreement; Jordan, in cooler response, says Israel must enter into talks with Palestinians

PA President Mahmoud Abbas heads a leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas heads a leadership meeting at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)

The Palestinian Authority called Thursday for the United Arab Emirates to “immediately retract” its agreement to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel, which it called a “despicable decision” and a betrayal.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting in response to the agreement, while the PA recalled its ambassador to the UAE in protest over the deal.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects the actions of the Emirati government, considering it to be a betrayal of the Palestinian people and Jerusalem and al-Aqsa,” PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement read aloud on Palestine TV.

Abu Rudeineh accused the Emirates of “conducting normalization [with Israel] in the guise of supporting the Palestinian cause.”

Abu Dhabi has sought to portray its action as first and foremost benefiting the Palestinians, as it puts off and possibly cancels Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

File: Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 5, 2017. (Flash90)

“The leadership affirms that the UAE, or any other party, has no right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, and does not allow anyone to intervene in the Palestinian affairs or speak on their behalf about their legitimate rights in their homeland,” Abu Rudeineh said.

Abu Rudeineh said that the Palestinian Authority demanded an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to denounce the agreement.

Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh spoke over the phone Thursday night to discuss the UAE-Israel agreement.

The Palestinian Authority also recalled its ambassador to the UAE in protest over the agreement, PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said in a statement.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced the agreement Thursday afternoon. They “agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” they said in a joint statement. “As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough, and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

UAE officials commenting on the agreement to “establish a roadmap towards launching common cooperation,” as UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash put it, emphasized that it would end Israeli annexation and revive the peace process.

Senior Fatah and Palestinian Liberation Organization officials quickly issued statements condemning the agreement.

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” said PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi, who also called the deal a betrayal.

Fatah Secretary General Jibril Rajoub said that the normalization agreement was no surprise. Ties between Israel and the Gulf states have been evident for some time, Rajoub suggested.

“Now the swamp has dried up and everyone is naked,” Rajoub said dismissively on Palestine TV.

Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad also denounced the agreement, which was mediated by the United States.

“The US-Israeli-Emirati agreement is dangerous and represents a ‘free reward’ for the Israeli occupation for its crimes and violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, who added that the Gaza-based terror group saw the agreement as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause.”

Palestinian members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, during a patrol in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 27, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“He who has never supported Palestine with a bullet ought to be ashamed of himself as he is submitting to the basest of creatures,” Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a statement.

A new Arabic-language hashtag began trending on social media – “normalization is betrayal” – reaching hundreds of thousands of shares.

Headlines in Palestinian media speculated that the Palestinian leadership had been left entirely in the dark on the looming deal. Another matter of concern for Abbas is the potential involvement in the deal of Tanzim leader Mohammad Dahlan, who Abbas sees as a possible challenger for the Palestinian national leadership. Dahlan is backed by the UAE and is based in the Emirates.

“Absolute confusion reigns here,” Palestinian journalist Nassar al-Laham told pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen News from Ramallah.

Still, few Palestinian commentators seemed surprised — after all, Israel’s coordination with Gulf countries has long been well-known. One Palestinian cartoonist showed Israel and the UAE embracing one another under the table, saying that the only difference between today and yesterday was that now they embrace each other over the table.

Israel’s Arab allies — those with whom the Jewish state has signed treaties and some of those who have preferred to stay in the shadows so far — mostly hailed the agreement.

Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah el-Sissi called UAE leader Mohammad Bin Zayed to congratulate him on the “historic step…in advancing the peace process,” a spokesperson for the Egyptian president said. Egypt and Israel have been at peace since the 1978 Camp David Accords and enjoy a close security relationship.

“I followed with great interest and appreciation the tripartite statement between the United States of America, our brothers [the] United Arab Emirates, and Israel regarding the agreement to stop Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian territories and to take steps to bring peace to the Middle East,” Sissi said in a statement. “I value the effort of those embarking upon this agreement for the sake of achieving prosperity and stability for our region.”

Jordan was cooler, with Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi making no mention of the agreement on bilateral ties, saying only that “The decision to freeze the annexation of Palestinian lands included in the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel must be followed by Israel, stopping all illegal measures which undermine peace opportunities and its violations of Palestinian rights.

“Israel must immediately enter into direct, serious and effective negotiations to achieve peace based on the two-state solution and in accordance with international law,” Safadi said.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a joint conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

Across the Gulf, where warming ties with Israel have until now been the region’s worst-kept secret, the response was also positive.

The government of Bahrain welcomed the agreement, which it characterized in a statement as “stopping the annexation of Palestinian lands and advancing the region towards peace.”

While Saudi Arabia has not yet officially commented on the newly announced agreement, Saudi Minister of Information and Culture Adel al-Toraifi said that he believed that the agreement constituted “a historic decision.”

“It’s time for GCC states to move beyond the destructive discourse of false Arab Nationalism and Terrorist Islamists. GCC states should urge Palestinians to drop Hamas’s terrorism & seek a modern state,” al-Toraifi wrote on Twitter.

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