UPDATE: Palestinians demand retraction of UAE-Israel deal

Deal would halt planned annexation of occupied land sought by Palestinians for future state

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state, President Donald Trump said Thursday.

The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties with Israel.

“Today we usher in a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. “There is a good chance we will soon see more Arab countries joining this expanding circle of peace.”

In a statement released after an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership, the Palestinians called the agreement a “betrayal” and demanded it be retracted.

Netanyahu also said in the broadcast the Trump administration asked that Israel put its West Bank annexation plans on hold to move forward with the agreement with the UAE.

He said there was “no change” to his plans to annex parts of the West Bank but added they were on “temporary hold” and that implementing annexation would be done with U.S. coordination.

His remarks appeared aimed at placating influential settlers who were angered by Israel’s shelving of plans to annex parts of the West Bank. But they contradicted statements from Emirati officials who viewed annexation as off the table.

Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”

“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition ‚while attempts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway. Israel and the UAE are among Trump’s closest foreign allies.

For Israel, the announcement follows years of Netanyahu boasts that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged. He has sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas.

For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers. It also puts the UAE out first in a regional recognition race among neighboring Gulf Arab states.

For the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, it marked both a win and setback. While the deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

“The Palestinian leadership rejects what the United Arab Emirates has done as a betrayal” of the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian statement said, demanding the UAE “immediately withdraw from this disgraceful declaration.”

The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the deal by the Emiratis “a stabbing in the back of our people.”

The joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the day-to-day ruler of the UAE. It said the leaders had a three-way call discussing the deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the deal “a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region.”

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999 but later ended relations in 2009 over Israel’s war in Gaza at the time.