FOR the first time since the conclusion of its ‘normalisation’ deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, Israel is set to approve the construction of 2,166 new settler units across the occupied West Bank.
The Peace Now NGO, which is an anti-settlement group that monitors settlement activity in the West Bank, said in a statement that the units were expected to be approved yesterday.
‘Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank,’ its statement read.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to ‘normalise’ diplomatic ties – in a deal apparently brokered by US President Donald Trump – that included the Tel Aviv regime’s agreement to suspend annexation of the occupied West Bank.
The UAE announced normalisation of its relations with Israel on August 13th.
In response, one day later on August 14th, Palestinian protesters burned a banner showing Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan near the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem (al-Quds).
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan then signed the agreement at the White House on September 15th – also attended by President Donald Trump of the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
Emirati officials claim the normalisation deal was needed to stave off further annexation of Palestinian land and save the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli authorities, however, say annexation plans are not off the table.
Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. They view the normalisation as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.
A high-ranking United Arab Emirates (UAE) official accused Palestinians of both ‘ingratitude’ and ‘lack of loyalty’ after Ramallah’s envoy to France harshly criticised the Persian Gulf state and Bahrain over the signing of the ‘normalisation agreements’ with the Israeli regime.
‘I was not surprised by the statements made by the Palestinian Ambassador to Paris, Salman El Herfi, and his ungrateful discussion of the Emirates,’ Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, wrote in Arabic on his Twitter account.
‘We have grown accustomed to the lack of loyalty and the ingratitude. We proceed toward the future confident in all our actions and beliefs,’ he added.
Earlier, El Herfi had told French magazine Le Point in an interview that UAE and Bahrain ‘have become more Israeli than Israel’ itself and are violating the Charter of the United Nations.
The Palestinian diplomat said that the UAE had long abandoned the Palestinian cause and that he wasn’t surprised by Abu Dhabi’s decision to normalise with Tel Aviv.
‘The only new thing was the formalisation of this relationship. I thank them (UAE officials) for having revealed their true face,’ he said.
‘The truth is that the Emirates were never at the Palestinians’ side,’ El Herfi went on, noting that the UAE had frozen aid for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) back in 1985.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is merely ‘a little dictator who wants to become known, and he’s playing with fire’, the veteran Palestinian diplomat said.
The UAE’s de facto leader ‘surrendered to Israel without a fight’, El Herfi added. He said the UAE and Bahrain violated a long list of Arab League and UN resolutions by normalising ties with Israel.
The Palestinian ambassador also denounced the two deals as ‘pure propaganda’, saying they had neither parliamentary approval nor public support.
The head of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement’s political bureau condemned ‘the US-brokered deals that the UAE and Bahrain signed to normalise ties with Israel, warning about ‘no mercy’ for the Arab states that betrayed fellow Palestinians.
‘And with all due respect,’ how many Emiratis are there in the world, 800 thousand? And Bahrainis, 500 thousand? There are 340 million Arabs,’ he said.
‘In fact, these two countries have become more Israeli than the Israelis. But we have full confidence in the fact that their people will not accept this over the long term,’ El Herfi pointed out.
Relations between the UAE and the Palestinians have soured ever since the Emirates and Israel agreed as part of a US-brokered deal to establish formal relations on August 13th.
Emirati officials have described the normalisation deal with the Tel Aviv regime as a means to stave off annexation and save the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians, however, dismiss the claims, saying the deal had long been in the works in the course of secret contacts between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv.
Israeli leaders have lined up to reject the UAE’s bluff that Israel’s annexation plans were off the table. Netanyahu has underlined that annexation is not off the table, but has simply been delayed.
- Meanwhile, Hamas has also censured the Arab League over its refusal to decry the UAE-Israel ‘normalisation’ deal.
Hamas has criticised the League for its failure to denounce last month’s agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel on ties normalisation.
Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital, recognise the deals as a betrayal of their cause and say they run counter to the long-standing Arab consensus over a ‘two-state solution’ along the 1967 borders.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that the agreements will be fruitless as long as the United States and the Israeli regime do not recognise the rights of the Palestinian nation and refuse to resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement’s political bureau, has ‘once again condemned the US-brokered deals that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain signed last month to normalise ties with Israel’, and has warned that history will show ‘no mercy’ to the Arab states that betrayed fellow Palestinians.
In an interview with the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal, published on Monday, Ismail Haniyeh said that the Arab countries that made peace with Israel will be losers as the occupying regime will eventually threaten them.
‘The Zionist project is an expansionist project. Its objective is to create a greater Israel,’ he said.
‘We don’t want to see the Emiratis or the Bahrainis or the Sudanese being used as vehicles for this project. History will show no mercy, the people will not forget, and humanitarian law will not forgive,’ he said.
In mid-September, US President Donald Trump presided over the signing of the ‘normalisation’ pacts between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Manama. Then during a ceremony at the White House, Trump said ‘five or six’ other countries were close to making similar agreements with Israel – but did not name them.
Reports say Sudan and Oman could be next in line to normalise with Israel.
‘We know Israeli leaders better than them. We know how they think. We would like to tell our brothers in the United Arab Emirates that they will lose as a result of those agreements because Israel’s only interest is to seek a military and economic foothold in areas close to Iran,’ Haniyeh said.
Amidst the outrage, Palestinian factions and a host of states have kept up their vociferous protests at a fledgling trend of Arab-Israeli normalisation.
‘They will use your country as a doorstep. We don’t want to see the UAE being used as an Israeli launchpad,’ he added.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Hamas leader reported a breakthrough in reconciliation talks aimed at forming a national unity government with Ramallah-based Palestinian faction Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas.
‘We witnessed positive changes on the ground. I do not want to sound over-optimistic and pre-empt events but there are positive things. The challenges are enormous and we are still at the beginning of the road,’ he said.
Haniyeh also referred to recent closed-door sessions between Hamas and Fatah, saying: ‘What we hear from them in closed meetings is that they stress the importance of Hamas taking part, because Hamas has a right to be involved in the day-to-day running of the government.’
Hamas and Fatah are considering running a joint list in Palestinian elections set to take place next year for the first time since the 2006 vote that left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip, he added.
And the Palestinian political faction Fatah underlines the unity among Palestinian groups to counter US-Israeli plots, while Haniyeh has stressed that Hamas had been vindicated by the collapse of the 1990s Oslo peace process between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel.
‘From the day it was announced, Oslo bore the seeds of its own destruction … Oslo was a failure from day one because it was a security agreement, not a political one,’ he said.
Oslo had died when both its signatories, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, were killed, he noted.
‘Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) himself, who engineered Oslo, has announced abandoning Oslo and therefore, yes, we feel vindicated,’ Haniyeh said.
Moreover, Haniyeh said Hamas was prepared for a fresh attack on Gaza, warning that any future war would be costly for the Tel Aviv regime.
‘We could have saved time had the Palestinian Authority recognised this disaster earlier. Had it been overturned early on, we would have saved our people from the miseries they endured.
‘But better late than never.’