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UAE rows back on claim after Israel rejects annexation cancelled

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A picture taken on July 1, 2020 shows a general view of the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, Israel's largest in the occupied West Bank, with a view the skyline of Jerusalem al-Quds in the background. (Photo by AFP)

The UAE has been forced to admit that its initial claim of having normalized ties with Israel in exchange for Tel Aviv's cancellation of its annexation plans is far from the truth. 

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Friday the primary achievement of the deal was the suspension of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex large parts of the West Bank for a “long time”. 

"I think we have bought a lot of time… I don’t think it is a short suspension,” he told the Walla news site in an interview billed as the first by an Emirati minister with an Israeli news website.

On Thursday, Israeli leaders lined up to call UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's bluff that Israel's annexation plans were off the table after the deal.

“There is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full coordination with the United States,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem al-Quds, using the biblical name for the occupied West Bank. 

A senior Israeli source said the Trump administration had requested to temporarily suspend the announcement of annexations "to first implement the historic peace agreement with the UAE”.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman too said of the annexation, “It's off the table now but it's not off the table permanently. You can't have peace and annexation at the same time.”

Nevertheless, the UAE wants to push forward on normalization with Israel "as soon as possible", Gargash said. “I see teams meeting in order to address many of the areas of interest in Israel and in the UAE.”

Gargash specified that the fields the UAE wanted cooperate with Israel on included agriculture, food security, cyber security, tourism, technology and trade.

'Mossad chief to lead delegation to UAE next week'

An Israeli delegation is reportedly about to travel to the United Arab Emirates early next week to meet with the Persian Gulf state’s top leaders.

Israel's Channel 12 television said a senior Israeli official would lead the team. The Ynet news site said this would be the director of Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, who is said to have led normalization bids over the past year.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that Israel's national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, would lead preparations for the talks “in coordination with all the relevant parties.”

Channel 12 said some aspects of the normalization agreement may be signed during the visit. The two sides would also schedule a meeting between Emirati and Israeli leaders to take place within the next few weeks.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he believed a deal-signing ceremony could take place at the White House in about three weeks.

In his interview, Gargash stressed that his country’s normalization deal with Israel was not a symbolic measure, and that Abu Dhabi wanted wide-ranging bilateral relations with Israel. 

The agreement, he said, would involve opening embassies and that he hoped cultural exchanges would begin taking place “soon”.

“This is not something we are talking about being gradual, we need to get things moving, we need to start, so I hope soon and Israel is going to be part of Expo Dubai, so clearly this is important that we also see Israeli visitors coming to Dubai,” he said.

On Thursday, the UAE, Israel and the US issued a joint statement announcing an agreement on “the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates”.

The Emirates presented the move as an achievement for West Bank Palestinians, in that it halts Israel’s plans to annex parts of the territory, but Palestinians castigated the new accord as “despicable” and a “betrayal”.

'Poisonous dagger from an Arab country'

Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat said on Friday the agreement is a stab in the back of the Palestinian nation.

“I never expected this poisonous dagger to come from an Arab country,” Erekat said as he addressed UAE rulers.  

“You are rewarding aggression … You have destroyed, with this move, any possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” the senior Palestinian official and a veteran negotiator added.

Various Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip have roundly condemned the normalization announcement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has voiced his “strong rejection and condemnation” and called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Hamas denounced the pact as a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a desperate attempt to undermine the resistance front, which aims to defeat the Israeli occupation and restore Palestinians’ rights”.

The movement said "Emirati rulers will gain nothing but shame and loss, as they will sooner or later realize that the replacement of Arab allies with the Israeli occupation equals to political suicide".

The Islamic Jihad movement also said normalization of ties between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi marks a moral and strategic downfall in the UAE’s policies. 

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