Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

US political rivals united in praise over ‘historic’ UAE-Israel deal

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden praises Abraham Accord

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden expressed support for the Abraham accord. AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden expressed support for the Abraham accord. AFP

Leaders from both sides of the US political spectrum voiced support for a deal normalising relations between the UAE and Israel on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed the announcement, calling it a “significant step forward for peace in the Middle East".

Mr Pompeo said the Abraham Accord “is 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".

He said the move “illustrates their commitment to confronting common threats, as small but strong nations".

Mr Pompeo and US President Donald Trump hinted at more deals between Arab nations and Israel.

"Things are happening that I can't talk about," Mr Trump said.

Mr Pompeo said the US “hopes that this brave step will be the first in a series of agreements that ends 72 years of hostilities in the region".

He ended his statement by congratulating the two nations in Arabic and Hebrew.

“Blessed are the peacemakers. Mabrouk and mazel tov,” Mr Pompeo said.

Donald Trump's son-in-law and the face of the administration's Middle East peace plans, Jared Kushner, praised the US president's leadership in helping to bring the deal about.

"The president, like with all things, urged us to take an untraditional approach," Mr Kushner said.

"You can’t solve problems that remain unsolved by doing it the same way the people before you have tried and failed."

Mr Kushner, senior adviser to Mr Trump, called it a “historic day” for the region and a turning point in peacemaking for the Arab world with Israel.

He said he expected the next steps to involve exchanging of embassies and trade, healthcare and technological co-operation between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Mr Kushner said flights would be established between the UAE and Jerusalem, and that Muslims could take them to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque.

Asked if other countries would follow suit, he said: “You will find out.”

He said “a couple of countries were upset they were not the first".

Mr Kushner hailed Mr Trump’s leadership over the past year and a half in mediating the talks and argued that more would follow if the US president “is given four more years".

He described the phone call between the three leaders to finalise the agreement as “phenomenal” and built on “great trust.”

As the US election battle heats up before November 3, both sides appeared to agree that Thursday's deal is a positive step for the region.

Mr Trump’s presidential rival and former vice president Joe Biden praised the UAE for its “welcome, brave and badly needed act of statesmanship".

“It is a timely reminder that enmities and differences, even longstanding ones, are not set in stone, and of the role American diplomacy can play,” Mr Biden said.

He said any future Israeli annexation plans would be “a body-blow to the cause of peace", that would “end any chance of a two-state solution”.

Mr Netanyahu refused to say annexation was off the table, only that plans were on “temporary hold”.

Experts and former officials viewed the announcement as one that breaks barriers on the way to peace in the region.

“The fact that the agreement effectively ends the threat of annexation in the foreseeable future is a victory for the Arab position, while at the same time making it politically easier for Mr Netanyahu to reverse his previous position,” said Ghaith Al Omari, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former negotiator with the Palestinian Authority.

Mr Al Omari said that Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan that have relations with Israel have more influence in supporting Palestinian rights than those who do not.

“The UAE will be a valuable addition to this axis,” he told The National.

Mr Al Omari said he expected the Palestinian Authority to oppose the announcement.

“This is a natural result of the PA’s lack of new ideas and unwillingness to develop positive relations with many Arab states,” he said.

In the US context, Daniel Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel and a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, hoped that the announcement would bring real peace.

“It has been a long-term, bipartisan goal to pursue normalisation between Israel and Arab states," Mr Shapiro said.

"The UAE-Israel announcement is good news and breaks an important barrier.

“Additional good news will be if the announcement buries any chance of unilateral annexation in the West Bank.

“That's still not clear but is critically important. Annexation will help to kill any chance of a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"It should never have been floated in connection with the Trump [Middle East Peace] plan.”

Dennis Ross, a former US Middle East envoy, said the UAE-Israel agreement was an important step that kept the prospects of a two-state solution alive.

"Palestinians won't like it but the UAE prevented annexation and preserved two states as an outcome," Mr Ross wrote on Twitter.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state under the former Obama administration, welcomed the accord as a step towards peace.

Mr Kerry said the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed and the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba "deserve credit for their historic initiative to normalise relations with Israel in return for Israel foregoing annexation. This is a welcome step that builds on years of work to advance regional peace."

The move averted the Trump administration's "blunder" of promoting West Bank annexation, and "leaves open prospects for a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on a two-state solution, realising the ultimate vision of a lasting peace between Israel and all its neighbours", Mr Kerry tweeted.

"The historic OpEd in June by Ambassador Al Otaiba, published in Hebrew in an Israeli newspaper, will long be remembered for signalling that this agreement could become real," he wrote.

Retired US Admiral James Stavridis described the accord as the "first good news on the international front in months".

"Good to see Israel and UAE draw closer together – helps the united front in the region against Iran," Adm Stavridis tweeted. "Hope it leads to broader Israeli-Arab co-operation."

President Trump's former national security adviser James Bolton also stressed the importance of the deal in containing Iran.

"Israel deserves diplomatic recognition from its neighbours and this is a critical step to contain Iranian aggression against both nations," Mr Bolton said on Twitter.

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Reaction: The National discusses Israel and the UAE establishing diplomatic ties

Updated: September 14, 2020 10:05 PM

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