‘Great news for peace’: Former Israel, US officials react to historic UAE-Israel deal

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Former Israeli and American officials involved in the Middle East peace process are applauding the landmark UAE-Israel agreement set to normalize relations between the two countries.

On Thursday US President Donald Trump announced the “Abraham Accord,” a diplomatic agreement between the UAE and Israel, which is Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab country in 25 years.

Nadav Tamir, a former policy adviser to Israeli President Shimon Peres, told Al Arabiya English that the agreement, which will halt Israeli annexation of the Palestinian territories, was “great news for peace.”

“No annexation and improved relations with an important Arab country,” said Tamir in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Former US envoy to the Middle East Ambassador Dennis Ross said the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel in return for an annexation freeze is a “huge step.”

“It prevents Israeli annexation which preserves the possibility of two states and the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Ross, who played a leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process for over twelve years, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Ross said that while Palestinians may criticize the agreement, “the reality is annexation has been prevented and that serves Palestinian interests.”

Palestinian lawmaker Bernard Sabella expressed skepticism, telling Al Arabiya English after the announcement that he wasn’t sure that the development “would really change things on the ground with respect to settlements and annexation.”

Former Israeli Parliament member Ksenia Svetlova told Al Arabiya English that Thursday was “truly a historical and happy day for both countries.”

Israeli and Emirati delegations will meet in the coming weeks to establish bilateral agreements on a range of issues including tourism, telecommunications, and healthcare.

Currently there are no direct flights from the UAE to Israel. Phone calls between the two countries are blocked and neither have diplomatic offices in each other’s country.

However collaboration relating to healthcare is underway - relating to the coronavirus pandemic. In June it was announced two UAE private companies paired with Israeli companies to collaborate on COVID-19 research and technology.

Svetlova said both global and regional challenges call for cooperation between the two countries.

“Our countries have maintained good relations for a while and its wonderful that this relationship will not be finally normalized and a peace treaty will be signed,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously pledged to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz had urged the military to hasten preparations for the planned annexation.

In June, UAE ambassador to Washington Youssef Al Otaiba said Israel cannot expect to normalize relations with the Arab world if it pushes ahead with its annexation plans, in an op-ed for Israel’s best-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, published in Hebrew.

Otaiba called the potential move an “illegal takeover” of land Palestinians seek for a state.

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