The arrival of a United Arab Emirates delegation in Israel has been slammed as “shameful” by Palestinian officials.
The delegation – UAE’s first official visit to Israel – was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Finance Minister Israel Katz at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday.
The five-hour visit would be restricted to the airport near Tel Aviv, due to coronavirus concerns, Israeli organisers said, and it comes after the two countries signed an agreement at the White House to normalise ties last month.
The visit will involve signing of a number of agreements.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the visit will only validate Israeli forces’ crimes against the Palestinians.
“The bilateral agreements that were announced today and the delegations that come and go, all of that offers the occupation a strength to escalate its aggression and its crimes against the Palestinian people and increases its intransigence and arrogance,” said Youssef.
Speaking in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he said the overtures come as Israel expands illegal settlement activity.
In the besieged Gaza Strip, Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas, said: “Such a visit will only encourage the occupation to pursue the gradual annexation of West Bank lands.”
Palestinians on social media have decried the “double standards” of the visa exemption rule for Emirati citizens, noting that they are not allowed to move freely within and to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Under Israel’s colour-coded ID system, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are not allowed to travel to the Gaza Strip, and vice versa. Palestinian Jerusalemites are subject to having their residency rights withdrawn if they live in the other occupied territories.
Palestinian refugees, who number more than six million scattered around the world, are not permitted by Israel to return to their homeland at all, even for a visit.