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UAE concedes normalisation failed to stop Israel’s illegal annexation

September 18, 2023 at 2:32 pm

Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, then-US President Donald Trump and Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan attend the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, at the White House on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC [Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images]

When the UAE agreed to normalise relations with Israel in 2020 through the Abraham Accords, it faced criticism for allegedly betraying the Palestinian cause. The Gulf state defended this controversial decision, asserting that the agreement served Palestinian interests by halting Israel’s annexation of the West Bank and preserving the so-called two-state solution.

Since then, the UAE has consistently argued that normalisation curbed Israel’s territorial expansion. However, last week, Abu Dhabi’s Ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, seemed to acknowledge its limitations. At a Washington event marking the three-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, Al-Otaiba stated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration was effectively annexing the West Bank. He implied that countries pondering formal relations with Israel might be the key players to halt this initiative.

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It’s challenging because it’s ongoing. It’s happening subtly, which complicates the path to a two-state solution even further

Al-Otaiba is reported saying in the Times of Israel while commenting on Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank.

“Our agreement had a specific timeframe, which is nearly over. Thus, we cannot influence decisions made beyond that period,” the Emirati ambassador noted.

“It might now be up to other countries to adopt that strategy. There’s minimal influence the UAE can exert on current Israeli decisions,” Al-Otaiba added.

Previously, the ambassador asserted that the accord prevented the annexation of occupied Palestinian territories by Israel. He mentioned that the UAE had secured Israel’s commitment to suspend plans to annex significant portions of the West Bank, thereby safeguarding the potential for a two-state resolution.

By endorsing normalisation, the minister contended, the UAE championed Palestinian statehood ambitions. He deemed annexation a severe threat to a future Palestinian state, a danger the normalisation agreement mitigated.

Nevertheless, many noted that Israel hadn’t made a binding commitment to cease annexation indefinitely. Critics blamed the UAE for granting diplomatic benefits to Israel in return for ambiguous commitments that could be easily overridden.

Al-Otaiba’s statements were made amidst ongoing discussions about a potential Saudi-Israel normalisation agreement mediated by the US. While the full terms are yet to be settled, rumours suggest Riyadh might emulate its Gulf counterpart in exchange for US security assurances and the green light for a civilian nuclear programme. The Saudis have also expressed a desire for concessions from Israel regarding Palestine.

Recent Arab media reports claim the deal faltered due to Israel’s refusal to compromise on the Palestinian matter. Israeli officials reportedly were taken aback by their Saudi counterparts linking the Palestinian issue with normalisation. It remains uncertain if normalisation is off the table for the foreseeable future.

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