At US President Donald Trump’s request, Israel has agreed to suspend its plans to officially engulf large areas of the Palestinian territories and instead focus on “expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to a joint statement released by the three countries on Thursday.
Trump announced the “HUGE breakthrough” on Thursday following a phone call with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
Israel and the UAE will work together on developing a coronavirus vaccine, the statement continued, adding that the two nations would also work with the US to “launch a Strategic Agenda for the Middle East to expand diplomatic, trade and security cooperation.”
The move represents a surprising reversal of the Netanyahu government’s land-grabbing election rhetoric, which had set the international community on edge given the less-than-legal status of Israel’s occupation of the areas it planned to annex.
The UAE is the first Gulf nation to officially normalize relations with Israel, though Saudi Arabia has long been on cozy terms with the Jewish state.
Emirati and Israeli officials will meet in the near future to sign bilateral agreements on technology, investment, security, travel, energy, culture, healthcare, and the environment, among other issues, as well as to discuss establishing mutual embassies.
Trump told reporters the agreement will also give Muslims greater access to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and hinted that “other nations - very powerful, very good nations” were planning to follow the UAE’s example.
The conversation with Netanyahu and bin Zayed “was like love,” Trump continued.
Netanyahu hailed the agreement, officially named the Abraham Accords, as a “historic day” and praised the arrival of a “peace that will stand in opposition to extremism.”
“For decades, Israel was rejected in the region, and now this has changed,” he said, adding that “there will be more Arab and Muslim countries that will enter into peace with us.” However, he made it clear annexation was only being put on ice temporarily.
Palestinian leaders, however, were not pleased. “Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted in response to the news, adding that the UAE had merely “come out in the open on its secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”