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Israel Drops Annexation Plans and Normalizes Ties With United Arab Emirates

Israel Drops Annexation Plans and Normalizes Ties With United Arab Emirates

President Trump calls it a "huge breakthrough."

The flag of the United Arab Emirates. (Flickr Commons)
The flag of the United Arab Emirates. (Flickr Commons)

This is a developing story.

(JTA) — In a diplomatic breakthrough, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are normalizing ties.

As part of a peace deal brokered by President Donald Trump, Israel will pause its plans to annex areas of the West Bank, according to a joint statement released by the White House.

“Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world. The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that added diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal,” the statement read.

The statement, which referred to the two countries as “two of America’s most reliable and capable regional partners,” said that Israel and the UAE will sign agreements in the coming weeks related to investment, tourism, air travel, security, opening embassies and more. The two nations also will work together on developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, it said.

The Gulf states have been growing closer with Israel in recent years, but the UAE is the first to establish formal ties with the Jewish state. The countries share a goal of countering Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Most Arab countries do not recognize Israel’s existence. The Jewish state currently has ties only with Egypt and Jordan.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hailed the deal as an historic step toward a more stable Middle East, warning he would not support Israel’s annexation of Jewish settlements if he wins the White House in November.

“The UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship,” the former vice president said in a statement. “Annexation would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president.”

Reactions: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweets, “The agreement between Israel and the UAE is an important and strategic milestone for new opportunities in our region. I hope that this step will also lead to strengthening trust between us and the peoples of the region, and to a broad-based and stable understanding among us all.”

Mark Wilf, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, said in a statement: “We welcome the news about Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalizing relations. The two countries have so much to gain from working together and this decision could pave the way for greater recognition of Israel throughout the region and increase the prospects of peace.”

The Israel Policy Forum said “Israel’s broader acceptance in the region is good for Israel and good for American interests in the Middle East,” and applauded the suspension of annexation plans. “We urge the Israeli government to build upon today’s achievement by working toward a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will allow Israel to normalize relations with other states, but most importantly with its most immediate neighbors,” it said in a statement.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called it a “historic day– two allies of the US now become open strategic partners in the region to thwart Iran and other Jihadists. It also signals further dramatic normalization between  Arabs and Jews in the region.” The LA-based Jewish group called on the Palestinians to “come to the peace table and directly negotiate with Jerusalem.”

Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz tweets, “This should be a day of honest reckoning for the Israeli left, the ‘international community’ and the entire peace process industry. For 30 years they’ve been saying Israel will have relations with the Arab world only at the price of a Palestinian state. The Arab world doesn’t care.”
Jeremy Ben-Ami of left-leaning J Street tweets: “Decision to ‘suspend’ annexation unequivocally a good thing — but note it’s ‘suspension’ not abandonment of a terrible and illegal idea. Also can’t ignore that de facto, creeping annexation continues and needs to be stopped as well. …
Any move to establish warmer ties between Israel and its neighbors is a good thing but comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace can’t leave Palestinians on the outside looking in.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called it “an historic moment, facilitated in great part by the Trump administration, that demonstrates that diplomacy and dialogue can lead to progress and cooperation.” He added: “Annexation would be disastrous. Israel’s not moving forward with it will hopefully lead to a renewal of negotiations and eventual peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Zionist Organization of America President Morton A. Klein and ZOA Chair Mark Levenson called it a “game-changing, long-awaited, historic agreement” and “an important bulwark against dangerously increasing Iranian aggression.” The two were “disappointed,” however, that the deal “temporarily suspends Israel’s restoration of her sovereignty over lawful and historic Jewish lands in Judea/Samaria and the Jordan Valley where 500,000 Jews live.”
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