U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic ties, a development that is part of an agreement to stop Israel’s annexation of occupied land in the West Bank sought by Palestinians for their future state.
This announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab country and the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt and Jordan have been the only Arab nations with active diplomatic ties with Israel.
Trump tweeted the joint statement between the three states, and later told reporters in the Oval Office it was “a truly historic moment.”
When VOA asked Trump if he supports Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land, Trump did not respond directly, saying only, “We’re talking to Israel about that right now.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later told reporters, however, that Trump asked him to suspend his West Bank annexation plans and that they were “delayed” but “not canceled.”
Trump added, “Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates.”
The joint statement said that delegations would meet in the next few weeks to discuss and sign deals concerning direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism, and health care.
“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” the statement reads.
The UAE and Israel also plan to “immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and development of a vaccine for the coronavirus,” the statement added.
UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Al Otaiba said the “announcement to fully normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is a win for diplomacy and for the region that lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that the pact with the Arab country was “A historic day.”
The normalization of relations between the two countries is a victory and a setback for the Palestinians, who have depended on Arab support in their quest for independence.
While Thursday’s agreement halts Israel’s annexation plans, the Palestinians have long urged Arab nations not to establish diplomatic relations with Israel until a deal to establish an independent Palestinian state has been reached.
“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” tweeted Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official.
Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, said the deal involving UAE is “a stabbing in the back of our people.”
Iran clerical leaders did not immediately react to the agreement, but the country’s Tasnim news agency said the normalization of ties between the two countries is “shameful.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said of the deal that “this is a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region.”
The agreement gives Trump a rare diplomatic achievement ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.
But Netanyahu may be hedging his bets before the election by halting his annexation plans. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he would oppose any Israeli efforts to annex lands wanted by the Palestinians.
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