JERICHO, Palestine

The UAE’s recent agreement with Israel to normalize ties amounts to the abolition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, a top official from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said Friday.

Secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, stressed that the new deal meant recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and renouncing Palestinian refugees’ right to return.

Slamming Thursday’s deal, Erekat said: “UAE rewards [Israeli premier Benjamin] Netanyahu for his war crimes against the Palestinian people in response to Israel’s decision to suspend annexation temporarily.”

Netanyahu on Thursday said he was “still committed” to annexing parts of the West Bank, despite a normalization deal with the UAE.

In a televised address, he said the deal included a temporary suspension to the annexation plan.

“[US President Donald] Trump asked to temporarily suspend the annexation of parts of the West Bank and I agreed,” he said, adding: “Extending sovereignty will be done only alongside the United States.”

Earlier in the day, Trump had announced Israel and the UAE had agreed to normalize relations, in a move forestalling Israel’s controversial plans to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank.

A joint statement from the US, UAE, and Israel said the “breakthrough” will promote “peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders,” referring to Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and Netanyahu.

Under the deal, Israel will “suspend” plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank “and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to the statement.

The development marks only the third time an Arab nation has opened full diplomatic ties with Israel, and the Emirates is now the first Gulf Arab state to do so. The other Arab nations with diplomatic ties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan.

* Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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