The United Arab Emirates (UAE) decision to normalise ties with Israel did not surprise Saeed Ibrahim, an 83-year-old Palestinian living in East Jerusalem. For Ibrahim, it was just the latest betrayal of the Palestinian cause by Arab states.
“It all began with Anwar Sadat’s visit to al-Quds. It is Egypt who opened the door,” he said, referring to the former Egyptian president’s visit to Israel in 1977.
“Before that, no one dared to say peace with Israel.”
Sadat’s visit, the first by an Arab leader to Israel, resulted in normalising of ties between Cairo and Israel. Jordan followed decades later, signing a peace treaty and establishing diplomatic relations in 1994.
The rest of the Arab states held out. That is, until now.
For years, Palestinians have known about the existence of relations, albeit discreet, between the UAE and Israel. Still, they did not see an announcement of formal ties between the two countries coming this soon.
The move is just the latest blow to the Palestinian cause by the United States since Donald Trump took office in 2016. It comes on the back of a US decision in 2017 to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the unveiling of this year’s so-called “Middle East Peace Plan” that resulted in Israel declaring plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.
That the UAE-Israel agreement temporarily holds Israel off from declaring sovereignty over its illegal settlements in the West Bank – from a Palestinian perspective – is little justification for the rapprochement.
The UAE decision “was coming” regardless of Israel’s annexation plans, according to Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator. This “decision is at the expense of the legitimate Palestinian national rights,” he told the Palestinian news agency Wafa on Friday.