'Deal of shame': UAE endorses Israel's occupation of Palestine
Without even mentioning Palestinians or the occupation once, and in return for merely suspending Israel's plans to formally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, the agreement pledges full normalisation between the two nations with the sky as the limit: in the areas of technology, security, trade and tourism. In other words, selling out the Palestinian cause, and throwing Palestinians under the bus.
The Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian factions including Hamas, immediately issued official statements denouncing and wholeheartedly rejecting the UAE-Israel agreement in the strongest terms, calling it a "stab in the back".
Words fail to describe some Palestinians' initial shock about Thursday's unabashed sellout, but to many the UAE-Israel agreement comes as no surprise. Since 1990, the UAE has been in a close bedfellow with Israel; though such close relationship was informal, and kept under the radar.
But Israeli companies have been openly providing the UAE with advance spyware technology to crack down on dissent, human rights activism and opposition to its growing dominance in the Middle East. Emirati relations with Israel, which never had anything to do with Palestinians, were also a way of garnering support and impunity from the US, as it sought to be considered a close ally.
|It puts a fig leaf on top of the far more dangerous creeping annexation that is taking place at a greater pace than ever|
Yet, the UAE has remained eager for greater closeness with Israel. Over the last few months, it has been courting Israel at every turn. Last May and June, the UAE sent two planes to Ben Gurion airport out of the blue, claiming that they carried medical aid for the Palestinians, which the PA immediately rejected.
In June, the UAE's ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba wrote an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, in which he moved the bar even lower, by promising normalisation on the simple condition that Israel halts annexation. A few days later, the Emirati State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, spoke at a pro-Israel lobby event in DC, where he even advocated for normalisation, despite plans for annexation.
One provocative stunt after the other shows how the UAE has been systematically working to pave the ground to its grand sellout while preparing the public to absorb the shock. So this 'deal' stands less as a breakthrough, and more as a marketing stunt to boost Netanyahu's and Trump's chances of reelection. In return, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, stated that UAE has become one of the United States' closest allies in the region after this agreement.
Normalising de facto annexation
And yet, since yesterday, UAE officials have been showing extraordinary audacity in shamelessly claiming that their sellout was a "brave move" done for the sake of Palestinians to prevent the de jure annexation of a de facto annexed land. But nothing could be further from the truth.
For months, Netanyahu's pledge to formalise Israel's annexation of large swathes of the West Bank has been going nowhere. Instead, it had turned into a blame game, between Netanyahu, his coalition partner, Benny Gantz, maximalist settler leaders, and the Trump administration.
Read more: Trump announces 'historic peace agreement' between Israel, UAE
The US, for instance, would say that the decision over annexation lies with Israel, while Netanyahu would respond that he's still waiting for a greenlight from Washington, and so goes the Catch 22.
And so, the UAE's betrayal has not only offered Netanyahu a golden way out of this predicament, with a shiny object to distract his extremist constituents' attention. It puts a fig leaf on top of the far more dangerous creeping annexation that is taking place at a greater pace than ever, and an insufferable occupation beneath which Palestinians live, with no freedom or dignity.
Furthermore, the agreement implicitly recognizes Israel's annexation of Jerusalem. Abu Dhabi's crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed stated his hope that it would stop only "further Israeli annexation" while remaining silent on territories that Israel already annexed.
Even Bin Zayed's claim of realizing an end to annexation was quickly debunked by Netanayhu, who emphasised it is still firmly on the agenda.
Reshaping the peace process
The critical timing and immoral nature of the UAE's normalisation with Israel can only be rightly understood as giving Israel more leverage over the Palestinians for free. There's no other reasonable way to see this event, than as an outright enabling and empowering of Israel's occupation at a time when its assault on Palestinians is at its zenith.
The agreement, furthermore, disincentivises any prospects for concluding a peace process that would lead to Palestinian self-determination and dignity. It sets the bar for Arab peace with Israel at its lowest ever; temporarily suspending de jure annexation until the official Israel-UAE agreement is signed, while Israel's accelerated de facto annexation on the ground should no longer be anybody's concern.
|It sets the bar for Arab peace with Israel at its lowest ever|
As Netanyahu hastened to declare, the reign of concessions - giving up land in return for peace - is over. "We're bringing peace through strength," Netanyahu bragged. This "strength" doctrine has already proven effective, when it brought the UAE regime to their knees, to embrace Israel for free.
This not only kills the Arab Peace Initiative and undermines Arab unity vis-à-vis the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but it also encourages the UAE's minions such as Bahrain and Egypt to follow their lead.
Offering a fig leaf
Moreover, the fig leaf this agreement puts on the ugly reality of Palestinian suffering in the occupied territories not only normalises the indefensible and perpetuates the uninhabitable, but it gives an immediate excuse for players in the region and the international community to look the other way and pretend that suspending annexation is synonymous with ending the conflict.
The situation on the ground, however, continues to move from bad to worse with no end in sight; whether it's land theft, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, Gaza's blockade or perpetual military rule over Palestinians. Anyone overlooking those facts would be simply exploiting the UAE-Israel agreement as a golden excuse to stand idly by and enable more brutalities against Palestinians.
Muhammad Shehada is a writer and civil society activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of Development Studies at Lund University, Sweden. He was the PR officer for the Gaza office of the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights.
Follow him on Twitter: @muhammadshehad2
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab.