Palestinians have responded with a resounding “no” to the new peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, signed last week under the auspices of the Trump administration.
The agreement establishes full diplomatic relations between the two countries, breaking with decades of policy in the region. Following Egypt and Jordan, which both share borders with Israel and Palestine, the UAE is only the third country in the region to officially recognize Israel and normalize relations with the country.
Though the UAE, along with other Gulf Arab States, has long been friendly with Israel, the new agreement formalized relations between the two, and opened the doors for the two countries to develop commercial, security, and diplomatic ties.
In the aftermath of the agreement, Bloomberg reported that trade between the two countries is expected to boom, while ministers from the UAE and Israel “rushed to open phone lines and unblock internet access, while companies in the two countries announced new pacts.”
Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that Israeli Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen was traveling to the UAE for security talks with Emirates leaders, less than a week after the agreement was announced.
In the near future, it’s expected that bans on travel between the two countries will also be lifted, and direct flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE will be established.
In the wake of the normalization agreement, Palestinians have taken to the streets across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip to denounce the deal, which they have described as the ultimate “betrayal” and a “stab in the back.”
Similar demonstrations took place in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and in Gaza City, as protesters burned photos of Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ), the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
During a Ramallah protest, Palestinians burned photos of Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled Fatah leader living in the UAE, due to the belief that Dahlan, who has close ties to MBZ, helped orchestrate the agreement.
As the fallout over the deal continues, the BDS movement has put out a call to boycott and divest from any festivals and events sponsored by the UAE government, and to boycott any companies in the UAE that partake in normalization activities.
A number of other Arab and Palestinian intellectuals and artists have also announced their own boycotts of the UAE and a number of its cultural institutions.
“This deal is the slap in the face for Palestinians, and for the supporters of the Palestinian cause,” Mahmoud Zawahreh, Head of Bethlehem’s Popular Resistance Committee, told Mondoweiss.
“We always knew that the UAE and Saudi Arabia had under the table relations with Israel, and that it’s been happening for years,” Zawahreh said. “But why now? Why give this free pass at normalization for Israel?”
Many Palestinians like Zawahreh have taken issue with one major point of the deal: that as part of the agreement, the UAE ensured Israel would stop the annexation of the West Bank, a policy move that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to see through on July 1st.
Due to mounting international pressure, threats from US Congress members to condition aid to Israel, disagreements over the policy within Israel’s unity government, and severed diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority, Israel never officially went through with the move.
“To say that the UAE is responsible for halting annexation is a joke,” Zawahreh said. “Not only because it was officially halted last month, but because annexation has been happening since 1967, and continues to happen every day.”
“We are living this reality of annexation every day in the West Bank,” Zawahreh said, highlighting ongoing settlement expansion and Israel’s continued confiscation of Palestinian land.
The UAE’s agreement with Israel will do nothing to stop the daily violations of the Israeli occupation in Palestine, Zawahreh said.
“In fact, it does the opposite, and only serves to legitimize Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine,” he said.
Following the announcement of the agreement, the Israeli and US governments indicated that other Arab countries would soon follow suit.
On Tuesday, Sudan’s foreign ministry said that it was “looking forward” to making a peace agreement with Israel.
Despite the reported efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to prevent his counterparts in the region from making similar deals, critics of the agreement have speculated that other Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia could be next in line.
“This is our biggest fear,” Zawahreh said. “As part of the Arab Peace Initiative, normalization with Israel was supposed to be a final step only after Israel retreated to the 1967 borders and ended the occupation.”
“This deal does the exact opposite,” he said. “It has equipped Israel with the power to continue to violate the rights of Palestinians, annex our land, and legitimize the occupation of Palestine.”