UAE announces peace deal with Israel, revives hope for Palestinian state

Other Gulf countries could follow suit although questions remain about Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Friday 14/08/2020
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, US Treasury Secreatary Steven Mnuchin, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and others applaud after US President Donald Trump announced a normalisation  agreement between the UAE and Israel, August 13, in Washington. (AFP)
Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, US Treasury Secreatary Steven Mnuchin, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and others applaud after US President Donald Trump announced a normalisation agreement between the UAE and Israel, August 13, in Washington. (AF

ABU DHABI – US President Donald Trump announced a “historic” agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel on signing a peace treaty.

Under the agreement, Israel will forge a peace treaty with a third Arab state, after Egypt and Jordan, in exchange for freezing annexation of Palestinian lands in large parts of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

This deal, according to Arab sources, helps bring back the “two-state option” back to life, as it improves the odds of creating a viable and independent Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem on August 13, on peace deal with UAE. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem on August 13, on peace deal with UAE. (AFP

When signed, the agreement, which the US president described as a “HUGE breakthrough,” will include full normalisation of relations and exchange of ambassadors between the two countries. The UAE would become the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to sign a peace treaty with Israel. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was quick to bless the Emirati-Israeli agreement sponsored by the United States, saying that it contributes to “bringing about peace in the region.”

Trump’s announcement of the “huge breakthrough” coincided with an announcement by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan that he had a phone conversation with the US president and the Israeli prime minister “in which it was agreed that Israel would stop its annexation of Palestinian lands.”

Israel was to proceed with the annexation of parts of the West Bank last July, but it decided to “suspend” this operation which would have killed any hope for establishing a “viable” Palestinian state.

An Arab diplomatic source described Israel’s backing down on its plans to annex up to 30% of the West Bank as breathing life back into the “two-state option” for Palestinians but also giving Jordan room for hope since the Hashemite kingdom would have been the first casualty of Israel’s annexation drive, which would have included the Jordan Valley.

Jordan considers the valley area crucial for its national security. So the announcement of the Emirati-Israeli agreement would explain the surprise visit by Jordanian King Abdullah II to Abu Dhabi a few days ago and the talks he had with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed that took place despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arab analysts expect the new peace treaty to open the door for similar agreements with other Gulf states who have already made steps towards normalisation. Qatari-Israeli relations have been improving for many years now, while former Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said officially received Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in 2018. The Sultanate treated Netanyahu’s visit with the same protocol and pomp of any other visiting prime minister whose country Muscat has normal diplomatic relations with.

Sources believe that a peace agreement between Israel and Bahrain would be relatively easy to reach, but real questions and doubts remain in the cases of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However, sources were quick to emphasise that the UAE would not have taken such a giant step without first consulting with its Saudi ally.

The timing of the move was essential. The announcement of the Emirati-Israeli agreement coincided with a relative detente in Iranian-Emirati relations in recent few weeks. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter August 3 that he has “had a long and frank in depth conversation” with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed discussing bilateral relations, the situation in the region, confronting the coronavirus pandemic and other matters.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in March 1979, followed by Jordan in October 1994, in what was known as the Wadi Araba Agreement.

Trump, Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed agreed in a phone call Thursday on full bilateral relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Trump said that he expected the formal signing ceremony of the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel to be held at the White House within a few weeks.

Official Emirati news agency WAM described the agreement as a historic diplomatic achievement that would enhance peace in the Middle East. It called it a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three Emirati leaders, and to the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that opens the way for great potential in the region. The three emirates face many common challenges today, and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement.

Netanyahu described Trump’s announcement of a peace agreement between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi as a “historic day.”

Delegations from the UAE and Israel will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements in the fields of investment, tourism, direct flights, security, communications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of embassies and other areas of mutual interest.

“The initiation of direct relations between two of the largest economic powers in the Middle East would lead to the advancement of the region by stimulating economic growth, promoting technological innovation, and strengthening relations between peoples,” WAM stated.

As a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump and with the support of the UAE, Israel will suspend its plans to annex Palestinian lands as was to happen within Trump’s peace plan, and will now focus on strengthening relations with other Arab and Muslim countries. Furthermore, the United States and the UAE are expected to work together towards this goal as they share a common belief in the possibility of other breakthroughs.

The two parties will also continue their efforts to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The United Arab Emirates and Israel will strengthen and accelerate cooperation in coping with the pandemic and development of a coronavirus vaccine. Their joint efforts could help save the lives of many across the region, regardless of their faith.

According to the peace plan, more Muslims will be able to visit and pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and other holy sites in Jerusalem should remain open to worshippers from all faiths.