ABU DHABI: Senior Officials of US and Israel landed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday in order to finalise a pact marking open relations between Israel and the Gulf state on a historic tour, and they said to the Palestinians that it was now time for them to negotiate peace.
Senior adviser of White House Jared Kushner also added on arrival that Washington could aid in advancing its ties to the UAE, the Arab world’s second-largest economy and a regional power.
The normalisation deal was announced on Aug 13 and is the first such accommodation between Israel and an Arab country in more than 20 years and was forged largely through shared fears of Iran.
Palestinians were dismayed by themove of UAE, seeing it as a betrayal that would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position which calls for withdrawal of Israel from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Kushner said Palestinians should not be “stuck in the past”.
“They have to come to the table. Peace will be ready for them, an opportunity will be ready for them as soon as they are ready to embrace it,” said Kushner, part of a US delegation that accompanied the officials of Israel on the first official Israeli flight to the UAE.
In a joint statement, the UAE, Israel and the United States urged the leaders of Palestine to re-engage with their Israeli counterparts.
The crown prince of Abu Dhabi earlier said that the UAE was committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, state news agency WAM reported.
“Peace is a strategic choice, but not at the expense of the Palestinian cause,” WAM cited him as saying.
The national security adviser of Kushner and US Robert O’Brien headed the US delegation on the two-day visit. O’Brien’s counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat led the Israeli team.
Economic, scientific, trade and cultural cooperation would be discussed by Israel and the United Arab Emirates on the visit. Direct flights between the two countries will also be on the agenda, the spokesman of Israeli Foreign Ministry informed al Arabiya television.
“That’s what peace for peace looks like,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.
At a news conference in Jerusalem late on Monday, Netanyahu said: “It will be a warm peace because it will be based on cooperation in the realm of economics, with an entrepreneurial economy like ours, with vast economic capabilities, with big money looking for investment channels.”
Israeli officials thought that the trip will produce a date for a signing ceremony in Washington, perhaps as early as September, between Netanyahu and crown prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
That could give a foreign policy boost to President of US Donald Trump ahead of his re-election bid in November.
On board the packed airliner, passengers were welcomed in Arabic as well as English and Hebrew.
“Wishing us all salaam, peace and shalom, have a safe flight,” the pilot, Captain Tal Becker, said on the intercom, using all three languages to also announce the flight number and destination.
“Peace is not an empty word used to normalize crimes and oppression. Peace is the outcome of justice,” politician Saeb Erekat said in a tweet.
“Peace is not made by denying Palestine’s right to exist and imposing an apartheid regime. Apartheid is what Netanyahu means by peace for peace.”
The Hamas group, which controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, also condemned the UAE.
The flight represents a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people, a prolonging of the occupation, and a betrayal of the resistance of the (Palestinian) people,” Hamas said in a statement.