UAE to open diplomatic ties with Israel: Trump

Dubai: 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.

Third Arab nation

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

President Donald Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal.

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.

For Israel, the announcement comes after years of boasting by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged.

Settlements

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.

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Joint statement

A joint statement from the US, the UAE and Israel was issued immediately after Trump’s tweet. It 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.

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. Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999, but later ended relations in 2009 over the Israel’s war in Gaza at the time.

In addition to Trump, the main US mediators for agreement were the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, special Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The UAE is a US-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Formed in 1971, the country like other Arab nations at the time did not recognize Israel over its occupation of land home to the Palestinians.

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Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood, the UAE’s founding ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, once pronounced when agreeing to an oil boycott over U.S. military support to Israel in the 1973 Mideast war.

The UAE relied on white-collar Palestinians in creating its nation. Over time, it maintained its stance that Israel allow the creation of a Palestinian state on land it seized in the 1967 war.

But in recent years, ties between Gulf Arab nations and Israel have quietly grown, in part over their shared enmity of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Prince Mohammed also shares Israel’s distrust of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the militant group Hamas that holds the Gaza Strip.

It remains unclear what prompted Israel and the UAE to make the announcement now.

In June, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S. warned in an Israeli newspaper op-ed that Israel’s planned annexing the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank would upend Israel’s efforts to improve ties with Arab nations.

The agreement gives Netanyahu a domestic boost at a time when Israel’s shaky coalition government is plagued by infighting and facing the possibility of early elections in the coming months.

Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet as the country grapples with a renewed coronavirus outbreak and skyrocketing unemployment as the result of earlier lockdown measures.

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