While Palestinians and Israeli right-wingers feel betrayed following the UAE diplomatic deal, Netanyahu reassures hardliners by saying annexation is still “on the table.”
Rabat – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backtracked on a key component of the UAE peace agreement signed on Thursday by saying annexation is “still on the table.” As global commentators lauded a “historic peace deal” for saving the Jordan Valley from Israeli annexation, Netanyahu was already publicly reneging on the Israeli promise.
Netanyahu stated he would “never give up our rights to our land,” even as senior UAE official Anwar Gargash still claimed the agreement had diffused “a ticking time bomb.” “The region is very polarised,” Gargash stated. “You will hear the usual noise but I think it is important to move forward.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the Israeli-Emirati deal “hugely good news” on twitter, while the UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said “today’s agreement to suspend (annexation) plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”
“I read with interest and great appreciation the joint statement between the United States,” Egyptian President Andel Fattah el-Sisi tweeted, calling the UAE and Israel “brotherly” nations. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the deal a “positive step, which must become a definitive measure.”
Iran and Turkey, meanwhile, were less optimistic about the agreement. Iranian officials called the agreement a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” Turkey stated that the region would “never forget and will never forgive this hypocritical behavior” of the Emiratis.
Opinions in Israel and Palestine were divided on how “definitive” the UAE deal’s halt on Netanyahu’s annexation plans truly is.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem roundly dismissed the agreement, saying that it mainly legitimizes Israelli moves in the long-running conflict and disregards Palestininan’s rights and demands. “The agreement with the UAE is a reward for the Israeli occupation and crimes,” Qasem said.
For their part, Israeli right-wingers have also lamented the agreement.
Parliamentarian Naftali Bennet said the deal “missed a once-in-a-century opportunity.” For the Israeli MP, the hyped agreement is nothing less than a broken election promise aimed at boosting Netanyahus’ standing as he strives to salvage his political future and legacy. “It is tragic that Netanyahu did not grasp the moment, nor did he muster the courage to apply sovereignty to even an inch of the Land of Israel,” she lashed out.
Even Netanyahu’s Likud party has not received the agreement as warmly as the Israeli PM hoped. Senior members of the ruling party also appeared divided on what the news truly meant.
According to the Times of Israel, Gideon Sa’ar, a rival of the prime minister, welcomed the agreement but said, “I will be emotional when we are able to apply Israeli law (over settlements).” “We promised Likud voters sovereignty, and we must stand by that,” Likud minister Yuri Edelstein noted.
The main point of disagreement concerns the permanence of Israel’s commitment to halt its annexation plans in the West Bank. As residents of Israel’s illegal settlements expressed dismay over the UAE deal, Netanyahu was quick to state the halt to annexation was only temporary.
Netanyahu claimed the US had pressured him into backing off annexation plans but that the UAE deal meant a postponement, not a permanent cancellation.
“It was clear from the start that the application of sovereignty would be done only with agreement from the United States. Otherwise, I would have already done it a while ago.” Netanyahu told Israeli broadcaster Channel 20. He later reiterated that stance in a televised address to the Nation, saying that there was “no change” to annexation ambitions
US President Donald Trump appeared to consider the issue of annexation “off the table,” saying “they agreed not to do it.” But Israeli diplomats appear to be seeing the issue differently. A senior Israeli official told Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Applying sovereignty is on the table and we’re committed to it. The Trump administration requested to temporarily suspend the announcement [of annexation] to first implement the historic peace agreement with the UAE.”