Palestinians Fail to Get Arab League to Condemn Israel-UAE Accord

Patrick Goodenough | September 10, 2020 | 4:15am EDT
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Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas at an Arab League meeting in Cairo last February. (Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas at an Arab League meeting in Cairo last February. (Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images)

( – The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday failed to get Arab League foreign ministers to condemn the Israel-United Arab Emirates agreement, one week before the historic accord is formalized at a White House signing ceremony.

While making placatory remarks about Emirati support for Palestinian statehood, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said his country had taken a sovereign decision in agreeing to normalize relations with Israel, a move which he said was not aimed at any third party.

“The deal has created a chance that we firmly believe must be seized and built on,” Gargash told the virtual meeting.

The Arab League’s Cairo-based assistant secretary general, Hossam Zaki, said a Palestinian-drafted resolution on the Israel-UAE agreement had failed to secure agreement and did not proceed.

A final communique by the bloc of 22 Arab states did include customary support for a Palestinian state and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, but was silent on the Israel-UAE accord, Israel’s third such agreement with an Arab nation and first with a Gulf state.

First announced by President Trump on August 13, the agreement is due to be finalized at a signing ceremony in Washington next Tuesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and UAE foreign secretary Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan signing on behalf of their nations.

The deal will see the two countries open embassies, establish direct flight links, and pursue economic cooperation across a broad range of sectors.

Although the agreement includes an Israeli pledge to suspend controversial plans to extend sovereignty over some of the territories disputed between Israel and the Palestinians, the P.A. objects to Arab states recognizing Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is resolved.

Ahead of Wednesday’s virtual meeting, P.A. foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki urged the Arab League to reject the agreement, saying failure to do so would amount to blessing, or being complicit in, the normalization of relations.

The Arab Peace Initiative, which the meeting did endorse, was a 2002 plan calling for “full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights” and the return of Palestinian refugees. Israel has consistently rejected it.

The U.S. and Israel are hoping the breakthrough with the UAE will lead to others following suit, with Bahrain, Oman and Sudan seen as most likely to consider doing so.

No progress with Arab states has yet been reported, although on Friday Kosovo, a Muslim-majority country, agreed to recognize Israel as part of a broader, U.S.-brokered economic normalization agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

A Norwegian lawmaker said Wednesday he was nominating Trump for the 2021 Nobel peace prize, citing his role in achieving the Israel-UAE agreement. Some years see large numbers of nominations – the record was 376 in 2016, and there are 318 this year. The winner of the 2021 prize will be announced in October next year.

Mideast peace efforts have garnered the Nobel peace prize before.

In 1978 Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat were jointly awarded the prize for the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state.

In 1994, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shared the prize “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East,” a reference to the interim Oslo accords signed the previous year.

When President Jimmy Carter received the award in 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts,” his role in brokering the Israel-Egypt peace agreement was acknowledged by the chairman of the Nobel Committee.

Turkish, Iranian interference

Wednesday’s meeting of Arab League foreign ministers also discussed and condemned Turkish and Iranian interference in the Arab world.

Turkey and Iran happen to be among the most vocal critics of the Israel-UAE normalization agreement, although the Arab ministers’ focus was on other behavior.

Gargash said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies were threatening the sovereignty, security and stability of countries in the region, and he condemned the Iranian regime for supporting armed militias and terrorist groups in some Arab countries, and for putting at risk shipping and energy supplies in the Gulf.

A committee focusing on Turkey – comprising Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Iraq – condemned Erdogan’s military intervention in Libya, Syria and Iraq.

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country would not sit idle “in face of Turkish greed that is especially being shown in northern Iraq, Libya and Syria.”

Bahrain’s foreign ministry said Turkey’s conduct “contributes to promoting sectarian and religious division by supporting terrorist and extremist groups and organizations, mercenaries and foreign terrorist fighters, which requires Arab and international action to confront these malicious activities and confront them at all levels and by various means.”

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