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The UAE-Israel Peace Accords, and What it means for Palestine

As UAE and Israel agree to a peace treaty aimed at normalising Israel’s place in the Arab world, Palestinian extremist group Hamas calls it a “stab in the back of the Palestinians”.

From left to right: Iraeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (pc: Arab News)

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that the United States had brokered a peace deal between UAE and Israel, calling it a historic deal where, after 41 years of conflict, UAE and Israel will normalise diplomatic ties in an agreement that has come to be called the Abraham Accords. For this treaty to happen, Israel has temporarily stopped its annexation of Palestine.

Ever since the Second Intifada in 2000, Israeli and Palestinian leaders had come to the same conclusion- that there would likely be no peace between them. The conflict continued to escalate, taking huge fatalities on both sides, but neither side has been willing to enter into a negotiation. The Palestinians view Israel as an occupier of their own territory, while Israelis have called the land their own right to their country. Extremism on both sides has made, for decades, any form of negotiations towards common ground unreachable. However, Israel has consistently had more power in its hands than Palestine, which has for decades relied upon its fellow Arab states for support.

Meanwhile for a long time, a few Arab countries had under-the-table relations with Israel, till Egypt and Jordan finally cemented them after signing peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively. In the past, after the Second Intifada movement, the UAE was formally committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, which called for an independent Palestinian territory as a prerequisite to cement any relations with Israel. Now, the UAE is the third Arab country to form an agreement with Palestine, and stands significant as the first Gulf Arab nation to do so. This also comes in the middle of the Middle East Peace Plan proposed by the United States in January 2020.

Israel-Palestine territory division proposed in the Middle East Peace Plan, in Jan 2020

Experts have described the Middle East plan as a disaster because of how it alienates the Palestinians. Other than Gaza, a few stray settlements with a land strip connecting them, most of the state would fall under the flag of Israel, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital, cementing Israel’s control of virtually the entire state. Palestinian leadership refused to abdicate their claim over the holy city. Thee plan has been viewed as a means for Prime Minister Netanyahu to appeal to his right-wing supporters and for President Trump to cater to his Evangelical Christian supporters by acknowledging Israel’s right over Jerusalem.

Following Netanyahu’s constant public promises of annexation, the UAE’s deal with Israel naturally comes as a shock for Palestine that has relied on Arab states in the Gulf for support. The UAE seems to view it as a way to stop the annexation of Palestine by Israel, with the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, stating “The agreement immediately stops annexation and the potential for violent escalation. It maintains the viability of a two-state solution as endorsed by the Arab League and international community.”

However, Prime Minister Netanyahu has clearly and publicly promised Israelis that the annexation will not stop, declaring, “There is no change in my plans to implement our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria in full coordination with the United States. I am still committed to it, it is still on the table” to appease his enraged right-wing voters.

Meanwhile UAE has received mixed responses for this action. The United Kingdom and the European Union have declared support for the agreement. Jordan, Egypt, Oman and Bahrain have welcomed the deal as a move forward towards establishing peace. Arab nations like Iran and Turkey have condemned the UAE for this action, calling it traitorous towards the Palestinian movement. Palestine has withdrawn its ambassador to the UAE. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called the deal a "huge mistake" and Turkish President Erdogan has indicated that Turkey may suspend all ties with the UAE over this deal. Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for the 2020 US Presidential Election, has also applauded the deal and assured that he and Harris would strive to maintain peace in the Middle East. He has also vocally opposed Israel's annexation of Palestine.

What is more worrying is that Palestinians have unanimously opposed this decision with Hamas, the extremist militant organisation of Palestine, openly vocalising its rage at the agreement. Hamas is known for its terror attacks on Israeli civilians, its use of suicide bombers, Qassam rockets and long range attacks that have reached as far as Tel Aviv and Haifa, prominent cities in Israel. This agreement has only left Palestine feeling more and more cornered in its position, and may very well the territory into an avenue for genocide. Despite what the UAE would like to think, with this agreement, it has given Israel its permission and even agreement to proceed in its annexation, just at a delayed date. Meanwhile, Trump uses this to garner the Evangelical vote, and claims that he should be eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize, like his predecessor Barack Obama. But really, this is simply the last nail in the coffin, and may very likely end any hopes for a two-state deal beyond revival.

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