Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Thursday’s normalization agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel at a joint meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Tuesday night, and urged other countries to stick to a 2002 proposal that conditions ties with Israel on the creation of a Palestinian state.
“We consider this a stab in the back and we absolutely reject it,” Abbas said.
Israel and the UAE announced an agreement Thursday afternoon to establish full normalized relations. As part of the deal, which solidifies an existing secret relationship forged over joint opposition to Iran, Israel has agreed to suspend its plans to annex some 30 percent of the West Bank.
While UAE officials have consistently described their agreement as a step toward helping Palestinian statehood by halting annexation plans, Abbas criticized those for whom “the Palestinian question begins and ends with annexation.”
“They have tried to portray to the world as though this was some great achievement, this rejection of annexation,” Abbas said.
“You cannot can take our place…Palestine speaks in its own name. She is who will say ‘yes’ or ‘no,” Abbas said. “You [are] not responsible for the Palestinian cause, we alone, the Palestinians here, will speak on behalf of the Palestinian cause.”
Palestinian officials have widely rejected the UAE-Israel deal, which was brokered by the US. On Sunday, Abbas railed against the deal in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, and PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh has described the agreement as a “despicable decision” and a betrayal.
Amid speculation over other countries forging ties with Israel, Abbas condemned other countries who might seek to follow in the Emirates’ footsteps. He invoked the 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, which conditioned normalization between Israel and the Arab World upon the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“Some countries have begun moving, both openly and in secret…this is rejected, and we the Palestinians will continue to absolutely reject this, no matter which country does this. You must respect the decisions on which you have signed off,” Abbas said.
Israeli and US officials have expressed hopes for deals in the offing with Oman and Bahrain.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Haidar Badawi Sadiq said that his country “aspired to a peace deal with Israel,” saying that such an agreement could happen as soon as the end of the year.
‘One unit against the conspiracy’
In a somewhat rare show of unity, representatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas also attended the joint meeting of the Palestinian leadership.
“Hamas received an invitation from PLO Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad, as well as from the Fatah Central Committee. The invitation was accepted,” said senior Hamas official Hasan Yousef.
The last time the two Gaza-based terror groups were invited to attend a major joint conference of the Palestinian leadership was in May, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced the end of security coordination with Israel due to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. Neither group showed up.
“I welcome our brothers in Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the whole leadership,” Abbas said. “This shows that we are one unit against the conspiracy, whatever the differences between us.”
Previous announcements of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation to cooperate against the planned annexation — the two factions have been divided since a bloody 2007 civil war — did not seem to bear fruit, and a joint rally in Gaza at which Abbas was supposed to speak never materialized.
The two rival Palestinian movements are scheduled to hold a joint rally in the West Bank on Wednesday at the initiative of Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub. Whether this could lead to a renewed shot at reconciliation between the two movements is still far from clear.