Palestinians unaware of US-brokered UAE-Israel deal before announcement, officials say
2020-08-13 | Since 2 Month
The Palestinians had no prior knowledge of the UAE-Israel agreement to stop the annexation of Palestinian land and establish diplomatic relations, officials have told The National. US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the UAE and Israel would sign agreements in coming weeks, a historic announcement that adds the Emirates to the two Arab countries that have formal relations with Israel: Egypt and Jordan. But the Palestinians, whose relations with the US have fallen to an all-time low under the Trump administration, were not told before the announcement, a Palestine Liberation Organisation official said. “We didn’t know,” the official said. “I’m shocked.” News reached Palestinian officials just minutes before the announcement, the official said, with high-ranking members of the leadership expressing disbelief when told. “I spoke to several people in high positions who should have known. They didn’t know,” he said. Another official from the Palestinian Authority, which operates limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, said he found out with the rest of the world after Mr Trump tweeted about it. “I didn’t know. I just read about it in the press,” the senior official said. He said there was a chance that someone at the highest level might have known, such as President Mahmoud Abbas or intelligence chief Majed Faraj. “Maybe someone relayed it through our intelligence apparatus,” the official said. Comment from Mr Abbas's office was not immediately available.
Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi, who had a visa rejected by the Trump administration last year, tweeted angrily in response to the news. The US administration and Israel’s right-wing government blame the Palestinian Authority for failure to reach a peace agreement, accusing it of refusal to negotiate. A former adviser to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and departing defence minister Naftali Bennett said that if the Palestinians were not informed, there would have been clear reasons. "One imagines that, sadly, they were always expected to condemn such positive progress, so why give them the chance to veto it too?" the former adviser said. The Palestinians deny claims of obstruction, and blame the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the failure to strike a peace deal after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War when Israel captured those territories. They say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his partners in government seek to maintain the status quo of occupation, with the threat of gradually annexing all of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians broke off ties with the Trump administration over what they call biased decision-making in favour of Israel.
They said his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the closure of the PLO office in Washington, and a peace proposal that ignored their key demands was evidence that the US failed to be an honest broker.
Mr Trump and his Middle East team, which includes son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former lawyer David Friedman, say the decision to cut off all communications, including between the CIA and the Palestinian security services, has harmed their cause. The Palestinians have also broken off security arrangements with the Israelis that had been maintained since the 1995 Oslo Accords. The UAE regards Thursday’s agreement as progressing hopes for peace in the decades-long conflict. Its Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, praised the agreement to stop annexation as a "significant diplomatic achievement" that sustains "efforts to achieve a two-state solution" between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That solution remains the favoured position of all members of the GCC, based on the Arab Peace Initiative outlined by Saudi Arabia and agreed to by the Arab League in 2002. "Most countries will see this as a bold step to secure a two-state solution, allowing time for negotiations," Dr Gargash said. The UAE has repeatedly opposed Israel’s efforts to annex the occupied Palestinian territories, which Mr Netanyahu pledged to rally his right-wing base in a year in which three elections were held. He now serves in a coalition government with former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz, who is also a supporter of annexation.
The UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, wrote an opinion piece in Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, weeks ago calling for Mr Netanyahu to stand down from those plans if Israel wanted to achieve better relations with the Emirates. Ties with Israel have been warming in the Gulf. Mr Netanyahu visited Oman in October 2018, and Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in June last year. Also in June, the Trump administration sponsored an economic conference in Bahrain for the Palestinians, which was widely regarded as pro-Israel. Egypt endorsed the agreement on Thursday, while the other key Palestinian faction, Hamas, the Islamist party that runs the Gaza Strip that borders Egypt, was quick to condemn it. It said the agreement "does not serve the Palestinian cause". Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 over what it says are attempts to break a years-long blockade that has left the territory on the brink of being unliveable, according to the UN. Israel and the US have designated Hamas a terrorist organisation for its attacks inside Israel and rocket fire on its civilian populations.