Israel's Netanyahu says West Bank annexation still on table
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied deceiving the United Arab Emirates during negotiations for the normalisation deal with the Gulf state, after confirming plans to annex the West Bank remain in place despite Abu Dhabi using the alleged halt as a victory for the Palestinians.
On Thursday, the UAE became the third Arab country to normalise relations with Israel in a move that sparked outrage worldwide.
The UAE initially touted the normalisation as a part of a deal to stop Israel from annexing 30 percent of the occupied West Bank, with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed stating the Gulf nation had reached an agreement with Israel "to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories”.
Foreign minister Anwar Gargash also said the agreement had dealt a "death blow" to annexation.
However, the halting of annexation was quickly rebutted as Israeli officials swiftly weighted in to confirm annexation plans had only been delayed, not cancelled.
On Monday, Netanyahu reiterated that annexation is still on the table, saying he had “worked too hard” to cancel plans to annex occupied Palestinian land.
In an interview with Israel Hayom, Netanyahu claimed to have not deceived anyone, saying he had no intention to shift from US President Donald Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century, which sought to annex 30 percent of the West Bank and build a tiny Palestinian state on extremely limited grounds.
"I worked for three years and did not relinquish sovereignty. I included it in President Trump's peace plan that says Israel will gain 30 percent of the territories of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) without uprooting any settlement and without withdrawing from areas necessary for the security of Israel. This is the American plan. It has not changed", he said.
He denied that normalising with the UAE was based on halting annexation, but because of a mutual benefit for doing so.
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“The UAE normalised with Israel because Israel is an economic and political superpower and there is a mutual benefit with our integration of economic and military capabilities,” he said.
“I believe that the great change in the Middle East regarding the perception of the Arab countries came as a result of my standing against the nuclear agreement with Iran..Against aggression.
“Many countries in the Middle East, under my leadership, realised Israel is a country that had transformed from an enemy to a necessary ally," Netanyahu added.
Palestinian groups have publicly denounced the deal, saying it does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause.