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In blow to Palestinians, Arab League refuses to condemn Israel-UAE deal

Senior official says foreign ministers were not in agreement on Palestinian issue, after PA foreign minister criticizes body for failure to show unity in backing its cause

A banner showing the flags of Arab countries and reading "History will only glorify those loyal to Palestine" is seen during a rally against the UAE-Israel normalization deal, in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on September 9, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
A banner showing the flags of Arab countries and reading "History will only glorify those loyal to Palestine" is seen during a rally against the UAE-Israel normalization deal, in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on September 9, 2020. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The Arab League failed to pass a resolution on Wednesday proposed by the Palestinian Authority which would have condemned the normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“After a three-hour debate, some Arab countries refused to include [a] statement condemning [the UAE] for abandoning Arab decisions. Additionally, they struck out a clause which discussed the trilateral agreement” between the UAE, US, and Israel, Palestinian Authority Representative to the Arab League Muhannad al-Aklouk told Ma’an News.

Senior Arab League official Hussam Zaki said: “Discussion around this point was serious and comprehensive. But it did not lead to agreement over the resolution proposed by the Palestinians.”

Zaki ultimately blamed the Palestinians for the failure to pass the resolution, claiming they had insisted they would either accept a condemnation or no statement on the Palestinian issue at all.

“A number of amendments were proposed, and then counter-amendments…and we were at a point in which Palestinian demands had not been realized, and the Palestinians preferred it not to pass rather than have it pass in a manner which they believed to be inadequate,” Zaki said.

Palestinian politicians condemned the deal as soon as it was announced in mid-August by US President Donald Trump, with many calling it “a stab in the back” by an Arab ally. Palestinian Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that if Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit could not condemn the treaty, he ought to resign.

While preliminary reports had indicated that Palestinian diplomats intended to soften their stance on the UAE going into the meeting so as to avoid diplomatic failure, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki demanded a full-throated stance rejecting the normalization deal in a Wednesday speech opening the session.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki calls on the Arab League to condemn normalization between the United Arab Emirates and Israel on September 9, 2020 (Screenshot: Palestine TV)

“This meeting must release a decision rejecting this step. Otherwise, we will be seen as giving it our blessing, or conspiring with it, or attempting to cover it up,” al-Maliki said.

Such a condemnation seemed unlikely from the start, however, given that several Arab states — such as Egypt and Bahrain — have expressed public or tacit support for the deal, which is due to be signed next week in Washington.

Nor was the Arab League in any rush to discuss the issue. Palestinian officials had originally called for an emergency meeting of the pan-Arab body against the deal when it was announced, but said they were told to wait nearly a month until this Wednesday, when a regular meeting had already been scheduled.

Aboul Gheit said on Wednesday that the Arab League would consider a resolution during the summit which “would not deviate” from its support for the Palestinian cause.

“It is the indisputable right of each country to have sovereignty in conducting its foreign policy in the way it sees fit. This is something that this council respects and approves. At the same time, we hold certain values as principles of consensus,” Aboul Gheit said, without specifying what those were.

UAE officials, such as Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash, have emphasized that their decision to normalize with Israel was a “sovereign” decision made in accordance with the UAE’s strategic interests.

Senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh called the Arab League’s failure to condemn the normalization deal “the triumph of money over dignity.”

“The Arab League has not produced anything. It has given the entire region condemnations of everyone ad nauseum — except for Israel. This is a thunderous collapse, the use of ‘national sovereignty’ to justify subservience,” al-Sheikh said.

Al-Maliki struck a similar note in his speech on Wednesday, decrying what he said was the Arab League’s uselessness and hypocrisy.

He said that Palestinian officials constantly heard from third parties about Arab officials paying lip service to the Palestinian cause in public while conducting relations with Israel in private.

“[Other countries] would confirm to us that [Arab League] decisions were nothing more than ink on paper to mollify the Palestinians. It puts us in an embarrassing position,” al-Maliki concluded.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem also condemned the Arab League’s failure to pass the resolution.

“This inability to condemn the UAE merely tempts Israel and the United States to continue implementing their plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Qassem said.

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