Palestinians Recall UAE Ambassador, Call Deal With Israel 'Betrayal of Jerusalem'

The Palestinian government has recalled its ambassador to the United Arab Emirates after the Arab nation formally made peace with Israel in a deal met with mixed reactions across the Middle East.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced Thursday that he had "immediately summoned" the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE in response to a trilateral statement in which the United States, the UAE and Israel announced that the latter two were normalizing relations, making Abu Dhabi only the third Arab government to do so since the 1948 war that displaced scores of Palestinians.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the "agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories," but Palestinian leadership rejected this premise.

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the agreement a "blow to the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits, as well as an aggression against the Palestinian people" in a statement broadcast by Palestine TV.

"The Palestinian leadership rejects what the United Arab Emirates has done and considers it a betrayal of Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause," he said, calling it "a de facto recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel" and demanding the UAE withdraw from this "disgraceful" agreement.

"Neither the Emirates nor any other party has the right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian leadership shall allow nobody to interfere in the Palestinian affairs or decide on their behalf regarding their legitimate rights in their homeland," Rudeinah added on behalf of the Abbas administration.

palestine, protest, west, bank, israel
A Palestinian youth hurls a stone towards Israeli forces in the village of Turmus Aya, north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, following a protest march by Palestinians against the building of Israeli settlements, on August 7. The United Arab Emirates normalized ties with Israel in a move that Abu Dhabi said would prevent more Palestinian territory from being annexed but Palestinian leadership rejected the agreement. ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Abbas' rival, the Sunni Islamist Hamas movement ruling the Gaza Strip, also spoke out against the decision, with the group's spokesperson Ismail Haniyeh phoning the leader later Thursday.

"They clearly affirmed the rejection of this declared agreement, considering that it is a non-binding agreement for the Palestinian people, and will not be respected, and stressed that all components of our people stand together in rejecting normalization or recognizing the occupation at the expense of our people's rights," according to a readout shared by Hamas.

"They also stressed during the call that no one is allowed to make Palestine, its sanctuary, its most remote places, its martyrs and the suffering of its people a bridge for normalization with the enemy," it added. "They agreed to continue constant communication and to strengthen joint coordination within the Palestinian national arena to face the developments of this situation."

The U.S., the UAE and Israel hailed the deal in a joint statement published Thursday by the White House.

"This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region," the statement said. "All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today's historic achievement."

Bahrain too welcomed the deal, saying "this historic step will contribute to the consolidation of stability and peace in the region." Bahrain and the UAE, along with Oman, expressed support for the U.S. and Israel's Middle East plan that was also controversial among regional partners and outright rejected by Palestinians.

Jordan expressed reservations toward the UAE-Israel rapprochement. The kingdom is a close U.S. regional partner that borders the West Bank, land internationally recognized as Palestinian but subject to gradual annexation by Israel, and was the most recent country to make peace with Israel in 1994. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the impact of the UAE-Israel deal "will be linked to what Israel will do: either ending the occupation and achieving a just and comprehensive peace or deepening the conflict that will explode as a threat to the security of the entire region."

Turkey, a member of the U.S.-led NATO alliance and a regional foe of the UAE, condemned the agreement, however. "History will definitely record the defeat of those who betrayed the Palestinian people," Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tweeted Thursday.

Both sides of Yemen's civil war, which pits a Saudi Arabia and UAE-backed government against a militia largely aligned with Iran, also appeared to disagree with the decision. Iran too, said it "strongly condemned" the move in a statement.

The Trump administration has closely aligned itself with Israel, going against an international in consensuses by recognizing the disputed holy city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israel's recognition of Syria's occupied Golan Heights. Palestinians have severed ties both countries, viewing their approach to peace as unfair.

The UAE has also drifted toward Israel in recent years, especially as Iran's growing influence became a priority for both Israel and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf.

Despite the U.S.-led maximum pressure campaign launched to isolate the Islamic Republic diplomatically and economically in the wake of the 2018 White House exit from a multilateral nuclear deal involving major powers, the top diplomats of UAE and Iran held a call earlier this month seen as a measure to calm tensions between the two.