Abbas trashes UAE deal in call with Macron, says no one speaks for Palestinians

French president praises normalization of ties during phone call with PA leader, says it will advance peace and asserts Israel-Palestinian accord ‘remains a priority’

French President Emmanuel Macron and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meeting at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on January 22, 2020. (Wafa)
French President Emmanuel Macron and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meeting at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on January 22, 2020. (Wafa)

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas angrily condemned the United Arab Emirates’ normalization agreement with Israel, saying no country had the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinians.

Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi announced the deal on Thursday, marking the third peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country since its founding in 1948, after Egypt and Jordan. In exchange, Israel has agreed to hold off on annexation of portions of the West Bank.

The UAE cited the latter decision is a major achievement in support of the Palestinians, a claim Palestinians have utterly rejected.

Arab countries have for decades conditioned normalization with Israel on a peace deal with the Palestinians, and last week’s announcement appeared to mark a shift in that approach, drawing anger from the Palestinian leadership. More Arab countries are reported to be considering formalizing ties.

In a tweet, Macron said he told Abbas “of my determination to work for peace in the Middle East,” and said the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks “remains a priority.”

Macron also voiced his backing for the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE, which has been blasted by the PA as a “despicable decision” and a betrayal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem on a phone call with UAE leader Mohammed Bin Zayed on August 13, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/PMO)

During Sunday’s call, “Macron said that his country welcomed the [Israel-UAE] agreement because it will contribute to pushing the peace process forward, reiterating the need to reach a political solution in accordance with the two-state solution and international law,” according to the official PA Wafa news agency.

Abbas, however, railed against the agreement, “stressing that neither the Emirates nor any other country has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people,” adding that in the event that any other Arab country takes a similar step, “we will take the same position that we have taken towards the Emirates, and will not accept using the Palestinian cause as an excuse for normalization of relations or for any other reason,” the Wafa report said.

Abbas also noted that contrary to the UAE’s claim, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not rule out moving ahead with West Bank annexation in the future.

Abbas had called an emergency meeting in response to the agreement, while the PA recalled its ambassador to the UAE in protest of the deal. Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad also denounced the agreement, which was mediated by the United States.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 7, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/Pool/AFP)

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.

Netanyahu said in a statement on Sunday that he expects “additional countries” to normalize their ties with Israel after the agreement with the UAE, and that it will eventually also drive peace with the Palestinians.

“This is a historic step that advances peace with the Arab world, and eventually will also promote peace — real, secure and supervised peace — with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said.

The other countries expected to possibly reach agreements with Israel include Morocco, Sudan, and Bahrain.

Netanyahu insisted Thursday that his plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to some 30 percent of the West Bank, covering major settlement blocks and the Jordan Valley, had been only “temporarily halted” at the request of US President Donald Trump, but that he remained “committed” to implementing it in full coordination with the US.

Annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley had been a campaign promise of Netanyahu’s over three elections in the past 16 months. It is part of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which has been embraced by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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