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Is annexation the crux?

The US-brokered UAE-Israel accord has invited angry Palestinian reaction at the official, popular and partisan levels

Haitham Ahmed , Tuesday 18 Aug 2020
Is annexation the crux?
Islamic Jihad supporters during a protest against the UAE-Israel deal (photo: AP)
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Official and popular Palestinian views denounced the US-brokered peace deal between the UAE and Israel. Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Jihad expressed their disappointment at the accord.

According to a joint statement by the three parties to the deal, US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a peace agreement between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. “The historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region,” the statement said.

“All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement.

“Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies and other areas of mutual benefit,” the statement continued.

“As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the president’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” added the joint statement.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the tripartite deal announced in return for the suspension of Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank. The Palestinian leadership said the deal undermines the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, and international legitimacy, and constitutes an aggression against the Palestinian people, and exclusion of Palestinian rights and sanctities, especially Jerusalem and an independent Palestinian state based on the borders of 4 June 1967.

The PA demanded the UAE “immediately retract” from the agreement that goes against “the Palestinian people, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa” and that conducts “normalisation [with Israel] in the guise of supporting the Palestinian cause”. It also warned Arab countries against succumbing to US pressures to sign similar deals at the expense of Palestinian rights.

“The leadership affirms that the UAE, or any other party, has no right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, and does not allow anyone to intervene in Palestinian affairs or speak on their behalf about their legitimate rights in their homeland,” PA Spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

The PA called for emergency meetings at the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in response to the agreement. It also called on the international community to adhere to international law and international resolutions that form the bases for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace will not materialise without the complete termination of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, it added.

Palestinian factions criticised the accord, including the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah. PLO Secretary General of the Executive Committee Saeb Erekat said the announcement is an approval “to Judaicise Jerusalem and its sanctities” and that “the UAE’s decision was forthcoming with or without annexation, a decision at the expense of the legitimate national rights of our Palestinian people.”

The agreement is a strategic mistake resulting from miscalculations to satisfy senior White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, based on illusory alliances to confront Iran — an existential threat to the US — Erekat added. The deal, he stated, is a point of strength for Iran it wouldn’t have acquired even if had spent billions of dollars.

“This rewards Israel for continuing to occupy us, killing [our] children and building settlements,” in return for a temporary halt to Israel’s annexation plan, Erekat said.
“I really believe that this step is a killer to the two-state solution,” he added, stressing that an apartheid system is the basis of the Trump-Netanyahu peace deal, dubbed the “Deal of the Century”, that would acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and undermine Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

Riyad Al-Maliki, minister of foreign affairs and expatriate Palestinians, announced that the PA recalled its Ambassador in the UAE Essam Masalha, while the PLO intensified calls with international organisations to follow up on their efforts with Palestinian refugees in camps, especially on dues to UNRWA, to ensure the agency continues to offer its services on the humanitarian, educational and healthcare levels to refugees amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The PLO added the accord was signed amid the increasing demolition of homes, installations and tents in the West Bank, land clearing, the uprooting of trees, daily raids, mass arrests and withholding the bodies of martyrs as part of an Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment. The organisation urged speedy action to protect the Palestinians against the crimes of the occupation, to try the occupier before the International Criminal Court, enforce a boycott and refuse to provide a lifeline that can benefit the occupier.

The PLO’s Executive Committee confirmed the presidential decisions declared 19 May in which Abbas announced the PLO will not abide by agreements it signed with Israel and the US administration, and resulting obligations in light of the “Deal of the Century” and Israel’s annexation plan.

The body added it continues to adhere to the principles of the organisation, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. These principles include Palestinian refugees’ right of return, according to UN General Assembly Resolution 194, the right to self-determination, and the establishment of an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, as the foundation for security, stability and peace in the region. The committee reiterated its rejection of Israel’s settlement expansion and warned against the dangers of Israel’s annexation plan.

The media spokesperson of the Islamic Jihad movement, Dawoud Shehab, meanwhile, said the UAE-Israel deal came “to save the government of Benjamin Netanyahu from its crises”.

The Palestinian Democratic Union (known as FIDA) said the accord was signed at a time Israel’s arrogance has reached unprecedented levels, and that “Netanyahu will not suspend the annexation of parts of the West Bank”.

The agreement is “dangerous and represents a ‘free reward’ for the Israeli occupation for its crimes and violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, adding that the deal is “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause” and will encourage more violations and violence against the Palestinians.

The Palestinian National Initiative said the deal was signed at the expense of the Palestinian people and their rights, stating “the accord came in tandem with Israel’s decision to postpone, not to cancel, its annexation plan.” The group urged Palestinian unity to counter present threats.

Tayseer Khaled, a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said Trump and Netanyahu are advancing towards a heated position, warning against presenting similar deals as being to the benefit of the Palestinians.

“This is a hostile step. As much as it sends a message from Trump to American voters, it also paves the way for the ‘Deal of the Century’ that targets the termination of our cause,” the DFLP said in a statement.

Tens of activists converged on Al-Manara Square in central Ramallah, the West Bank, in protest at the UAE-Israel deal. A march called by national and Islamic forces saw demonstrators raising the Palestinian flag and urging unity.

“The protest is one in a series of activities that will be arranged soon as part of the popular response to the normalisation project with the UAE. The Palestinian official and popular responses send a message of our rejection of the deal,” said Essam Bakr, coordinator of national and Islamic forces in Ramallah.

A number of observers are of the opinion that the call to put off the annexation plan is the result of pressure exerted by influential US figures, such as Middle East envoy Denis Ross and veteran journalist Thomas Friedman who crafted the Arab Peace Initiative.

“Zionists believe a hasty annexation for the sake of US and Israeli elections will constitute an existential threat to Israel. It will lead to the collapse of the Oslo Accords and the disintegration of the PA, endanger Israel and flood it with Palestinians who will threaten its Jewishness and transform it into a binational state,” said Mohamed Al-Nobani, a Palestinian writer.

He added that Zionist intellectuals, especially in the US, have rejected the annexation plan, not because they support the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel, but because they believe it endangers Israel’s integration with its Arab surrounding.

Dalal Erekat, a professor of strategic planning, said the Palestinian cause is not about the issue of annexation, but a cause against occupation, racism, oppression, war crimes, prisoners of war, martyrs and deprivation of the simplest rights to life.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


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