Gaza City – Palestinians reacted with shock and dismay after US President Donald Trump unveiled an agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalize relations.
The deal promises a full normalization of relations between the two countries in the fields of security, tourism, technology and trade in return for the suspension of plans for Israel’s annexation in the West Bank.
Palestinian leaders and the public were taken by surprise when the announcement was made on Thursday.
“We had absolutely no prior knowledge of this agreement,” said Ahmed Majdalani, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Social Affairs, told Al Jazeera. “The timing and speed of reaching this agreement was surprising, especially since it came at a critical moment in the Palestinian struggle.”
Former Palestinian Authority Minister Munib al-Masri noted that Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who ruled Abu Dhabi for more than 30 years before his death in 2004, had always been a strong supporter of the Palestinians.
“The late Sheikh Zayed was a dear brother to me, I knew how proud he was of his support for Palestine … I never imagined that in my life I would see the day when the UAE would simply sell the Palestinians for the sake of normalization, “al-Masri said.” It is very shameful. I can’t believe it until now. “
Other Palestinian officials said that although the news came abruptly, it was not much of a surprise.
“We were not very surprised because the UAE army was never at the border ready to fight Israel,” said Mustafa al-Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative and PA member of parliament. .
“We have recently witnessed some strange moves by the UAE, such as sending direct flights to Israel, and there have been leaks of secret agreements between the two in terms of scientific and economic cooperation. It is clear that these were preliminary steps to absorb the shock of yesterday. . “
Reject the agreement
The PA and all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have issued official statements denouncing the UAE-Israel deal. Palestinian leaders who spoke to Al Jazeera called it a “stab in the back.”
“We already knew that there was normalization under the table, but to formalize it and legalize it in this way at this critical moment is shocking. It is a stab in the back and the back of all Arab nations.” , said Majida al-Masri, former PA minister of social affairs.
Al-Barghouti stressed that the agreement “does not introduce any change or progress, it is far from being genuine peace”.
“This is an attempt to uphold the ‘deal of the century’ which aims to liquidate Palestinian national rights, it represents a denial of Palestinian, Arab and Islamic rights,” he said.
Palestinian leaders said the deal was “a free gift to Israel” and was made to aid in the re-election of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The UAE’s position, in terms of timing and essence, can only be understood as giving Israel gratuitous influence,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, member of the PLO Executive Committee and leader of the Front de liberation of Palestine. “There is no reasonable justification for this except that it empowers the occupation and increases its crimes against the Palestinians.”
Normalize de facto annexation
Although Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed said the deal “was made to stop further Israeli annexation,” Palestinians saw little credibility in this claim.
“The UAE is trying to deceive and mislead the public by repackaging this shameful deal as a service to the Palestinians and claiming it ends the annexation, but that only throws dust in the eyes,” Majdalani said.
Al-Masri said the annexation “is already going nowhere because the whole world is against it.”
“So using annexation as a pretext is exploitation of the Palestinians to cover up what has been done here,” al-Masri said. “But neither the UAE nor any other country has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinians.
“The format of the agreement implicitly endorses Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem. It only opposes ‘further annexation’ by endorsing what has already been annexed.”
Palestinian leaders have argued that the deal will not prevent Israel from extending its sovereignty to the West Bank.
“Instead of de jure annexation, Israel continues its creeping annexation. It is accelerating and increasing its aggression on the ground in terms of the construction of settlements, house demolitions and what is happening in the Ibrahimi and Al-Aqsa mosques, and in the lands that are in Area C, ”said al-Masri.
The Palestinians noted that Netanyahu left the door open to annexation and simply said it was temporarily delayed.
“Netanyahu responded directly to this point and said annexation was still on the agenda,” al-Masri said. “It’s a slap in the face of the UAE – to prove them wrong and to embarrass them.”
Breaking Arab Positions
Al-Barghouti called the deal a “divergence from the Arab peace initiative” and a “stab in the back of Arab positions”.
“It even contradicts the interests of the Emirati people themselves and goes against the historic position of former UAE rulers such as Sheikh Zaid,” he said.
Majdalani said the agreement aims to reshape the Arab approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It allows Netanyahu to say that he can achieve peace in exchange for peace with the Arabs without withdrawing from any territory.”
Al-Barghouti said he feared the deal could give countries like Germany and the UK – which welcomed the deal – a pretext to look the other way.
“But we are surprised that Arab governments like Bahrain and others openly express their support for this agreement. Have they forgotten the Palestinian people and their rights? Have they forgotten Jerusalem and Islam?” he said.
Abu Yousef added: “The world should see Israel’s accelerated and increasing crimes on the ground in the occupied territories, not just the threat of annexation.”
‘The fight will continue’
Despite the disappointment, the Palestinians stressed that Thursday’s announcement would not affect their resolve to end the occupation.
“Our sacrifices that we have made to face this occupation will not be wasted, we will cling firmly to our rights and principles, supported by all the free peoples of the world,” Abu Yousef said.
Majdalani, the Palestinian leadership, was looking for ways to respond. “We have made an immediate decision to recall our Ambassador to Abu Dhabi and we currently have all options on the table to consider.”
Palestinian officials urged the Arab world and the international community to act. “The best response to the deal can only come from other Arab countries,” al-Masri noted.
Abu Yousef said the PLO “calls on the Arab states to take a unified position against the UAE’s decision, so that there is no room for other Arab countries to follow his example in weakening Arab positions and supporting the Palestinians “.
He said the UN International Criminal Court (ICC), which may soon announce an investigation into Israeli actions in occupied Palestine, must now act.
“The international community, especially international organizations such as the United Nations, are now more than ever called upon to take responsibility for ending these crimes and empowering our people. Therefore, we call on the ICC to speed up its decision on the accountability of the occupation, ”Abu Yousef told me.
Al-Masri concluded: “We still have hope on the Arab people, including the Emirati people who unfortunately cannot express their opinion due to the terrible state repression. The Arab public still rejects such normalization.”