THE PALESTINIAN Islamic Jihad resistance movement strongly condemned the United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials yesterday for receiving Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, stressing that any normalisation and alliance with the Tel Aviv regime amounts to ‘a betrayal of Palestine.’
‘Bennett’s reception would help the criminal (Israeli) regime beef up its security and would be an attempt to legitimise the regime’s false existence, wash its hands stained with the blood of Palestinian children and innocent people, and exonerate Israeli murderers and terrorists of their crimes against the entire Palestinian nation,’ the movement said in a statement released yesterday.
The Israeli prime minister met the UAE’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan (MBZ) on Monday after becoming the first leader of the regime to visit the Persian Gulf state, more than a year after the two sides agreed to establish formal relations under a US-brokered deal.
Bennett met with MBZ at his private palace immediately following the premier’s arrival in the Emirati capital late on Sunday.
The UAE officially inaugurated its embassy in Israel on July 14 in a ceremony hosted by UAE’s Ambassador to Israel Mohammad al-Khaja, with the Israeli regime’s president Isaac Herzog in attendance.
The embassy is situated in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building, also known as the Bursa.
Israel opened its embassy in the Emirati capital in late June. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid inaugurated the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Israeli consulate in Dubai during a two-day visit.
Since they signed the normalisation agreement in August last year, Israel and the UAE have signed a raft of deals in various areas, ranging from tourism to aviation and financial services.
Israeli ministers had previously visited the UAE, but Lapid is the most senior Israeli diplomat to have made the trip, as well as the first to travel on an official mission.
Meanwhile, Palestinian political leader Sheikh Raed Salah has been released from an Israeli prison after serving 17 months on charges of ‘incitement’.
Salah, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and former head of the northern Islamic Movement, was released from Megiddo prison – just north of his hometown of Umm al-Fahm, near Nazareth – yesterday morning.
Dozens of people, including family, friends, and followers gathered along the main entrance to Umm al-Fahm with celebratory music, banners, and boxes of sweets to welcome Salah home.
‘It is a feeling mixed between pain and happiness. There is a lot of pain – he underwent a lot of injustice. He paid a high price out of his life because of the injustice he was exposed to by Israel,’ Khaled Zabarqa, Salah’s lawyer said.
‘He is a Sheikh to all of us. We are all Raed Salah. Men, women and children are all here for this wonderful celebration to welcome him,’ his niece, Muntaha Amara, told local media.
Israeli police arrested Salah in August 2017. He spent 11 months behind bars without charge before he was released and placed under restrictive house arrest, including wearing an ankle monitor, for two years while his trial proceeded.
In August 2020, Salah was re-arrested and sentenced to 28 months in prison – including time served – on four charges out of an original 12.
He was indicted under charges of ‘incitement to terror’ and supporting an outlawed organisation – the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – based merely on several of his public speeches and Facebook posts, according to his lawyer.
‘The Sheikh’s arrest, his conviction and his file were all unjust. He was detained and convicted based on his freedom of speech and opinion and his religion,’ said Zabarqa.
Born in 1958, Salah is one of the most influential Palestinian political and religious figures in historic Palestine, known locally as ‘Sheikh al-Aqsa,’ for his staunch defence of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem.