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US promised UAE it won’t back Israel annexation of West Bank before 2024: Report

Yasser Seddiq , Sunday 13 Sep 2020
(L-R, rear) US senior presidential advisor Jared Kushner, US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien clap for US President Donald Trump after he announced an agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize diplomatic ties, at the White House, August 13, 2020. AFP
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The administration of US President Donald Trump has given the UAE a commitment that Washington would not recognise Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank until 2024 at the earliest, The Times of Israel reported, citing sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

The pledge was reportedly made during negotiations on the normalisation of ties between Israel and the Gulf Arab country that were initiated by Trump last month.

President Trump announced on 13 August that the UAE and Israel had 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.

The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties with Israel.

The Israel-UAE accord is set to be signed on Tuesday at the White House.

On Friday, Bahrain followed in the UAE’s footsteps in striking an agreement to normalise relations with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had for months vowed to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank as early as July 1, but that plan was officially suspended as part of the normalisation agreement with the UAE.

However, the sides have not formally provided an exact timeframe for how long the matter of annexation has been “taken off the table,” as US President Donald Trump put it last month.

According to three sources with direct knowledge of the normalisation negotiations, Emirati officials, led by the UAE’s Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba, focused on seeking assurances from the US, rather than Israel, on the matter, the Israeli newspaper reported.

They were largely uninterested in receiving an Israeli commitment to an annexation freeze, the sources said, since they understood that Netanyahu would not move forward with the move without US support; the Israeli premier for months had said as much himself.

Rather, a key priority for the UAE during the negotiations was receiving a commitment from the US that it would withhold its support for annexation if Netanyahu once again began promising to immediately carry it out, the sources said.

Trump administration negotiators, led by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, agreed to set a timetable that was consistent with the one laid out for the Palestinians in the Trump peace plan, the sources said.

The Trump Administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan unveiled in January 2020 gives the Palestinian Authority a four-year window to engage with the peace plan, during which Israel is barred from expanding into areas earmarked under the plan for a future Palestinian state.

The UAE received a commitment from Washington that it would hold off on giving its blessing for Israeli annexation based on that same time-frame — that is, until January 2024.

The White House declined to comment for this story, as did UAE officials in Washington and New York, The Times of Israel said.

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