Israel and the UAE agreed to full normalization of relations in a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Thursday, marking the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country in 25 years.
Israel agreed to suspend its planned extension of sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria to facilitate relations with the UAE and potentially other Arab and Muslim countries.
The agreement will include establishing embassies and exchanging ambassadors, investments into the Israeli economy, trade, direct flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi, an investment in Israeli efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine – as first reported in The Jerusalem Post last month – and cooperation in matters of energy and water. An important element of the deal for the UAE is the expectation that its citizens would be able to visit the Al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal “full, formal peace” with “one of the strongest countries in the world.”
“Together we can bring a wonderful future. It is an incomparably exciting moment,” Netanyahu said. “I have the great privilege to make the third peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country, the UAE.”
Netanyahu wished Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed “Salam Aleykum v’Shalom Aleynu – peace unto you and peace unto us.”
Trump said in a statement posted to his twitter account: “Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economies will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation, and forging closer people-to-people relations.”
In subsequent remarks in the Oval Office, Trump alluded to “many more countries” in the region normalizing ties with Israel, and “some very exciting things including, ultimately with the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu said he has “reason to be very optimistic that today’s announcement w the UAE will be joined by more countries in this expanding circle of peace.”
The agreement “ushers in a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world,” he said.
Netanyahu thanked the leaders of the Arab world for supporting the agreement on Friday, writing on his Twitter account, “I thank Egyptian President al-Sisi, and the governments of Oman and Bahrain for their support of the historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”
“The agreement expands the circle of peace and benefits the entire region,” Netanyahu wrote.
Sources in Washington and Jerusalem said the Trump administration is in talks with other Gulf States to reach normalization agreements with Israel. Bahrain is likely to be next, to the extent that there was a chance they would have announced normalization before the UAE.
The US president also mentioned Iran, about which the UAE and other Gulf States share concerns with Israel, saying that he will make a deal with them “within 30 days” if he wins the election. Trump said the Iranians are “dying to make a deal,” but would prefer that it be with the Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, “because that would be like a dream” for them. Trump’s Special Adviser Jared Kushner clarified that the deal would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu remarked that the moves towards normalization were kept tightly under wraps because Iran would have liked to sabotage them.
Iran has played a major role in the closer ties between Israel and Gulf States since the previous US government and other world powers signed the nuclear deal with Tehran in 2015. The countries began cooperating on national security and that moved to other issues after trust was built between them, to the point that an American source said normalization seemed inevitable.
As a reaction, Iran’s Foreign Minister declared to the state news agency IRNA that the deal was “dangerous and illegitimate.” He said that “this is stabbing the Palestinians in the back and will strengthen the regional unity against the Zionist regime.”
“The shameful measure of Abu Dhabi to reach an agreement with the fake Zionist regime (Israel) is a dangerous move and the UAE and other states that backed it will be responsible for its consequences,” the statement added, according to IRNA.
Netanyahu touted a formula of “peace for peace,” based on shared interests, emphasizing economic cooperation, and peace that comes from a position of strength, rather than peace in exchange for concessions.
However, bin Zayed presented the matter as though he had exacted concessions from Israel, emphasizing the suspension of sovereignty plans over normalization. He tweeted that “an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories. The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship.”
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah a-Sisi similarly called it “the agreement to stop Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian Territories and taking steps to bring Peace to the Middle East.” He said in a tweet that he “values the efforts… in order to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.”
The Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace” would allow Israel to apply its law to 30% of Judea and Samaria, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley.
The rest of the West Bank would be designated for an eventual Palestinian state, which would receive recognition and a $50 billion aid package from the US if it meets a list of pre-conditions, including demilitarization and stopping incitement and salaries for terrorists.
Netanyahu said that he still plans to apply Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
“I’m not giving up on it. It’s on the table because of me. Trump put sovereignty into his peace plan because I asked for it,” Netanyahu said. “But in the first place I said again and again that we would only implement sovereignty in coordination with the US. Without support from the US, in the best case it would be worthless, and in the worst case, it would hurt ties very much.”
Netanyahu emphasized that he “did not and will not remove sovereignty from the agenda… I will never give up on our right to our land.”
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem and Washington pointed to the use of the word “suspend,” which implies that the pause is only temporary. The wording was agreed upon by all three sides.
It is unclear for how long annexation would remain suspended, but it is unlikely that anything would happen before the end of this year, the Washington source said.
The Trump peace team’s efforts gained steam in July and led to Israel’s decision to skip the original July 1 date that Netanyahu had discussed for sovereignty moves. The administration felt that the opportunity for Israel to normalize ties with the UAE was a “better choice.”
“In the long term, this will solidify security,” one American official said. Peace between Israel and the UAE presented an opportunity for “real peace” unlike the cold peace it has with Egypt and Jordan, since Israel and the UAE were never enemies that fought a war against each other.
Sovereignty moves would have stopped the momentum towards normalization with Gulf States, another source said.
The American source said: “Israel was presented with two opportunities and chose one. They’re aggressively pursuing [normalization] and not complicating it by doing sovereignty.”
Trump called the diplomatic breakthrough a “labor of love for a lot of people in the room,” speaking to how it is also an achievement for Special Adviser to the President Jared Kushner, who heads the Middle East peace team, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz, who worked behind the scenes in recent months to promote normalization between Israel and the Arab world, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Friedman said “the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE will make Israel stronger and safer and will likely lead to additional exciting opportunities and incremental prosperity for Israel, its neighbors and the entire region.”
A senior Likud source remarked that “the Israeli and international Left always said we can’t bring peace with Arab states without peace with the Palestinians, that there is no other way than withdrawing to ‘67 lines, evacuating settlements, dividing Jerusalem and establishing a Palestinian state. For the first time in history Prime Minister Netanyahu broke the paradigm of ‘land for peace’ and brought ‘peace for peace.’”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi praised the agreement, saying “the good news of normalization with the UAE is important and an opening to more agreements.”
Ashkenazi also praised “avoiding the one-sided annexation plan,” and called for the complete Trump peace plan to be implemented.
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett praised the normalization, saying “relations between the countries are no longer held hostage by Palestinian recalcitrance,” but slammed Netanyahu for suspending sovereignty plans.
“It’s unfortunate that Netanyahu gave up a once-in-a-century chance to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, Ma’aleh Adumim, Bet El and the rest of Israeli settlements,” he said. “It is tragic that Netanyahu did not seize the moment and didn’t have the courage to apply sovereignty to a centimeter of the Land of Israel, but sovereignty over the parts of our homeland will come from somewhere else.”
Joint List MK Mtanes Shihadeh accused the UAE of a “betrayal… no less than a knife in the back of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations.”
Shehadeh posited that “Netanyahu and Israel never really meant to annex, but in order for him to abandon the plan, the UAE agreed to make its secret relations open. Nothing will change and anyone who thinks the Palestinians will disappear are mistaken.”
Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden said “the UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave and badly-needed act of statesmanship. Annexation would be a bloody blow to the course of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president.”
The Gulf state of Oman said on Friday it supported the United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize ties with Israel, saying it hoped the accord would contribute to a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace in the Middle East.
The statement by a foreign ministry spokesman, carried by state news agency ONA, called the UAE-Israel agreement “historic.”