The agreement put a halt on Israel’s plans to annex parts of the Israeli occupied West Bank, but instead of increasing stability and peace in the region, Palestinian officials say the deal has further undermined them.
“I never expected this poison dagger to come from an Arab country,” a senior Palestinian official and veteran negotiator, Saeb Erekat said Friday. “You are rewarding aggression.”
“You have destroyed, with this move, any possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” he added, speaking to the UAE.
This week’s agreement made the UAE the third Arab country in the Middle East to recognize and establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, a political move Israelis and western nations have been pushing since the establishment of Israel in 1948.
The UAE presented its new diplomatic ties as a way to assert peace in the region, by getting Israel to drop the annexation policy Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to carry out.
But Netanyahu has since made clear that he will only “temporarily hold” off on his annexation efforts.
As Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank and Gaza strip since 1967, according to the United Nations, the Palestinians have taken the UAE’s agreement as a sign of their support for Israel over fellow Arabs.
“Today we usher in a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world,” President Trump said earlier this week. “There is a good chance we will soon see more Arab countries joining this expanding circle of peace.”
Palestinian officials are not the only ones to believe that con the deal emboldens Israel to continue garnering relations with Arab nations, while encroaching on the Palestinians. The new agreement shows that Israel does not need to find peace with the Palestinians in order to grow their diplomatic ties in the Middle East.
“It’s hard to claim right now that the 53-year-old occupation is ‘unsustainable’ when Netanyahu has just proved that not only is it sustainable, but Israel can improve its ties with the Arab world, openly, with the occupation still going,” wrote Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
The Palestinian Authority said the deal was a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause,” which is a sentiment that attempts to incite Arabs and Muslims not only in the region, but worldwide.
Palestinian officials called on the Arab League and the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation to gather for an urgent meeting and to condemn the move.
But the UAE is a member of the OIC, and has far more sway thanks to their economic wealth as a result of their prolific oil production, which is likely to prove a more agreeable motivator than Arab sentiment.
Calling on the OIC is meant to isolate the Emiratis so those other countries will not take the same step, Ibrahim Dalalsha, a Palestinian analyst told the Associated Press.
“Whether it will succeed in this or not, it remains to be seen,” he said.
Iran and Turkey, who are also members of OIC, were quick to condemn the UAE, but they remain isolated from other countries in the region with their growing ties to alleged state-sponsored terrorism.
Israel and the UAE have a common enemy: Iran and Iran-supported proxies.
The other powerhouse in the region, Saudi Arabia, who has reportedly been working with the U.S. to combat terrorist organizations in the region with ties to Iran, remains allied with the UAE and the U.S. although the kingdom does not yet have official diplomatic ties with Israel.
Egypt and Jordan are the two other countries in the Middle East with official diplomatic relations with Israel. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have strong ties with Egypt and Jordan, suggesting the Palestinians will be hard-pressed to find backing from a wealthy Middle Eastern nation.
While the U.S. and Israeli governments view the new diplomatic ties with the UAE as a success and an additional stabilizing force in the Middle East, the Palestinian people view it as another nail in the coffin as they struggle to be recognized as a nation: 137 countries in the United Nations recognize Palestine as a state. Israel and the U.S. do not.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.