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President Donald Trump with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, at right. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Federal

Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘New era’ in Israel’s relations with Arab world

United Arab Emirates joins Egypt, Jordan in Israel recognition.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the announcement that full diplomatic ties will be established with the United Arab Emirates has ushered in a “new era” in Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

In a nationally broadcast statement delivered on Thursday, Netanyahu said the “full and official peace” with the UAE would lead to cooperation in many spheres between the countries and a “wonderful future” for citizens of both countries.

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.

Netanyahu also said in the broadcast that the Trump administration asked that Israel put its West Bank annexation plans on hold to move forward with the agreement on ties with the UAE.

Netanyahu said there was “no change” to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank. But he said the plans were on “temporary hold” and that implementing annexation would be done with U.S. coordination.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”

“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition while efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway. Israel and the UAE also have been among Trump’s closest foreign allies.

For Israel, the announcement comes after years of boasting by Netanyahu that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged. Netanyahu has sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas.

For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its international campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers. It also puts the UAE out first in a regional recognition race among neighboring Gulf Arab states.

And for the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the announcement marked both a win and setback. While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter. She also said the UAE has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

“Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” she wrote. The official Palestinian broadcaster Palestine TV reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called an urgent meeting of his top leadership to discuss the agreement and determine a position on it.

The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the deal by the Emiratis “a stabbing in the back of our people.”

The joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the day-to-day ruler of the UAE. It said the leaders had a three-way call discussing the deal.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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