West Bank annexation still ‘on the table’, says Netanyahu

Updated 14 Aug 2020

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces full diplomatic ties will be established with the United Arab Emirates, during a news conference on August 13, 2020 in Jerusalem. — AP/File
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces full diplomatic ties will be established with the United Arab Emirates, during a news conference on August 13, 2020 in Jerusalem. — AP/File

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he agreed to delay annexation in the occupied West Bank as part of a normalisation deal with the UAE but the plans remain “on the table”.

Netanyahu said that in agreement with US President Donald Trump he had “delayed” West Bank annexation plans, but that he would “never give up our rights to our land”.

Netanyahu, like many in the Jewish state, refers to the occupied West Bank as Judea and Samaria and claims the territory as part of the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

Agreement removes time-bomb of annexation: UAE

“We will definitely not locate anything in Jerusalem. West or East. Unless there is a final agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.” Gargash urged the Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table but said that the issue was not in the hands of the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates’ Senior official Anwar Gargash said the deal had helped defuse what he called the ticking time-bomb of Israel’s planned annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank that was threatening a two-state solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.

Gargash, minister of state for foreign affairs, said the agreement was a bold but necessary step to take in the region.

“The region is very polarised. You will hear the usual noise but I think it is important to move forward,” he told reporters in a briefing.

Delegations from Israel and the UAE, a regional business and investment hub, will meet in coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications and other issues, the statement said.

Iran calls UAE-Israel deal ‘shameful’

Iran’s Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated to the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, said Thursday’s deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on normalising ties was “shameful”. Iran’s clerical leaders have yet to react to the deal.

Israel and the UAE reached a deal on Thursday on seeking the full normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations, in an agreement that US President Donald Trump helped broker.

Israel-UAE deal ‘does not serve Palestinian cause’: Hamas

The Gaza Strip’s Islamist leaders Hamas on Thursday rejected a historic agreement between Israel and the UAE saying it did not serve the Palestinian cause.

“The agreement with the UAE is a reward for the Israeli occupation and crimes,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said.

Johnson welcomes deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed an agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that will lead to a full normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two states.

“The UAE and Israels decision to normalise relations is hugely good news,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and todays agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.” Foreign minister Dominic Raab said it was “time for direct talks between the Palestinians and Israel, the only route to lasting peace.”

Sisi praises deal

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday praised the US-brokered deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that would halt Israeli annexation of Palestinian land.

“I read with interest and great appreciation the joint statement between the United States, the brotherly United Arab Emirates and Israel concerning the halt of Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land,” Sisi said in a tweet, adding that this would help bring “peace” to the Middle East. Sisi’s remarks came after US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement Thursday that the UAE and Israel would normalise ties.

The deal would make the UAE only the third Arab country Israel has diplomatic relations with after Egypt and Jordan.

As part of the deal, Israel has agreed to “suspend” plans to annex Jewish settlements and other territory in the occupied West Bank, according to a joint statement from the US, UAE and Israel tweeted by Trump.

“I appreciate the efforts of the architects of this agreement for the prosperity and stability of our region,” Sisi said.

In 1979, Egypt and Israel signed the first-ever peace treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab nation, upturning Middle East diplomatic and military relations.

Egypt has long served as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020