Category Archives: United Arab Emirates

Israel bombs Gaza as UAE, Bahrain signs US normalising deals.

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Israeli planes pound Gaza after rockets fired from besieged strip as Israel, UAE, Bahrain signed normalisation deals.

The Israeli military has carried out a series of air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip overnight on Wednesday, causing damage to property, Palestinian media reported.

According to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a site in Beit Lahiya in the northern strip. They also targeted areas in Deir al-Balah, a city in central Gaza, as well as parts of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. No casualties were reported.

Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday warned Israel it “will pay the price for any aggression against our people or resistance sites and the response will be direct”.

“We will increase and expand our response to the extent that the occupation persists in its aggression,” it said in a statement.

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Without naming specific factions, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza said in response to the Israeli air raids, the “resistance” fired rocket salvoes at Israel.

Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign US-brokered normalisation deals

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli army in a statement said it carried out 10 air strikes against positions belonging to Hamas in response to rockets being fired into Israel.

Israel, UAE and Bahrain sign US-brokered normalisation deals • On Tuesday evening, at least two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, one of which was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, while the other struck the coastal Israeli city of Ashdod, wounding two people.

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The rockets were fired at the same time as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements at the White House in Washington to establish diplomatic relations.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state that includes the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the US-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.

The latest rocket fire from Gaza came after a month of armed groups in the strip stepping up incendiary balloon attacks against Israel, which responded with nighttime air raids against Hamas.

Since 2008, Israel has waged three wars on the Gaza Strip. Israel has long said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence from Gaza, while Hamas says Israel is responsible for the state of anger and pressure inflicted on Gaza’s residents due to the continued siege.

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Anti-normalisation rallies
The normalisation moves by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel prompted demonstrations in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

Clutching Palestinian flags and wearing blue face masks for protection against the coronavirus, demonstrators rallied in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron, and in Gaza.

Hundreds also took part in a demonstration in Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas warned that the deals would “not achieve peace in the region” until the US and Israel acknowledged his people’s right to a state.

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“Peace, security and stability will not be achieved in the region until the Israeli occupation ends,” he said.

The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.

Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from already illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state in exchange for establishing ties with it.

Abbas warned that “attempts to bypass the Palestinian people and its leadership, represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization, will have dangerous consequences”.

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In Gaza, protesters trampled on and set fire to placards bearing images of the leaders of Israel, the UAE and Bahrain.

Since 2007, Gaza has been crippled by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has deprived its roughly two million people of vital commodities including food, fuel and medicine.

The Gaza Strip has a population of two million, more than half of whom live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Hamas and Israel last month reached a Qatari-mediated ceasefire deal and revived a fragile 18-month truce. The group has joined the PA in condemning the UAE and Bahraini accords as a “betrayal” of their cause.


#Newsworthy…

UAE-Israeli deal: Arab league over Palestinian cause to dominate talks

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Arab foreign ministers will attend a virtual session against the backdrop of UAE normalising relations with Israel.

An Arab League meeting on Wednesday will focus on the Palestinian cause after the Israel-UAE “normalisation” deal, with analysts suggesting division rather than usual unity on the issue will dominate the discussion.

The run-up to the virtual session has already left a sour taste for the Palestinian leadership.

On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain of blocking a draft resolution that called on Arab states to adhere to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative plan before normalising ties with Israel.

The Arab Initiative put forth by Saudi Arabia calls for establishing ties with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a just solution for Palestinian refugees, and occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Footprints are placed on images of US President Donald Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in the West Bank city of Nablus [File: Majdi Mohammed/AP]

A senior member of the PA’s governing Fatah faction, Hussein Hamayel, said Bahrain’s opposition to the draft resolution “places it on the side of the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims”.

However on Tuesday, in a bid to soften its tone, the official spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the leader “will not accept insulting the national symbols of Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates”.

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In a statement carried by the official news agency Wafa, Nabil Abu Rudeinah said the state of Palestine is keen on “maintaining brotherly relations with all Arab countries on the basis of mutual respect, with the necessity of the latter adhering to the Arab Peace Initiative”.

‘Betraying the cause’
Announced by US President Donald Trump on August 13, the UAE-Israeli normalisation agreement caught the PA by surprise, which then accused the UAE of betraying the Palestinian cause – long seen as a pan-Arab issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said more Arab countries will soon follow in the UAE’s steps, and Bahrain and Oman have both voiced support.

“The Palestinian cause has traditionally been a unifying theme for the Arab League, which this year appears to be more a cause for division, rendering the Arab League ever more irrelevant in managing the affairs of the Arab world,” said Andreas King, assistant professor of security studies at King’s College London.

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The motion to be put forth by the Palestinian leadership will likely not be endorsed by a number of Gulf states, he added.

A Palestinian waves a national flag during a protest against Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip [File: Majdi Mohammed]

“While there might not be an immediate move by any other Arab state to normalise ties with Israel formally, there will be more exchanges and engagement with Israel, which is no longer tied to the Palestinian cause,” King told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media.

“For the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been relegated to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which should not be an obstacle to a warming of bilateral ties with Israel.”

Marwa Fatafta, a policy member with the Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka, agreed, saying geopolitical interests “trump the rights of Palestinians”.

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“Many Gulf states have keen interest in formalising ties with Israel and the UAE-Israel was the ice-breaker,” she said. “Normalisation between Israel and Gulf states has already been in the making, and now it is just a matter of timing.

“What would probably come out from the Arab League is the usual recycled lip-service to the Palestinians,” she added.

Saudi stance

The Arab League, in contrast to Abbas’s granted request to hold an emergency session in the aftermath of the US announcing Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan, refused to do the same once news of the UAE-Israel agreement was announced.

This led to Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee, to call on Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit to condemn the UAE’s normalisation deal with Israel – or step down.

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“If he is not able to issue a statement condemning the UAE-Israeli normalisation, he should resign,” Erekat told PalestineTV.

And while regional power Saudi Arabia has declared it will not normalise relations with Israel without securing Palestinian interests, Riyadh fell short of condemning the UAE’s decision.

“Saudi Arabia will verbally endorse the Palestinian cause, the issue of Jerusalem, and the Arab Peace Initiative,” King said. “However, it remains to be seen what Riyadh does in terms of action on the matter.”

A view of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers after US President Donald Trump announced his Middle East plan [File: Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]

The oil-rich kingdom could choose the opportunity to shore up support for the Arab Peace Initiative, King continued, while simultaneously not taking a solid stance against normalisation, thereby leaving the door open for individual Arab states to deal with Israel as they see fit.

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“With the UAE as a leading Arab state already sacrificing the Palestinian cause to satisfy Emirati national interests with Israel, it will be hard to build firm support for the Arab Peace Initiative in this multilateral setting,” he said.

Fatafta said Saudi Arabia will stick to the Arab Peace Initiative plan, more for the sake of convenience, while at the same time cultivating warmer ties with Israel.

“Saudi Arabia indicated on number of occasions over the years that it has interest in cooperating with Israel especially with the growing threat from Iran,” she said.

“In fact, Saudi Arabia facilitated the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE by opening its airspace for direct flights between the two countries.”


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Hamas, Hezbollah chiefs meet to discuss UAE-Israeli ties

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Meeting comes after August’s agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalise diplomatic relations.

Leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss diplomatic normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, the movement said.

On Sunday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniya was given a hero’s welcome at Ain al-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp.

Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television reported earlier that Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement, and Haniya stressed the “stability” of the “axis of resistance” against Israel.

They discussed “political and military developments in Palestine, Lebanon and the region” and “the dangers to the Palestinian cause”, including “Arab plans for normalisation” with Israel, Al-Manar said.

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The meeting comes after an August 13 announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to normalise ties.

While the United States-backed diplomatic drive aims to boost a regional alliance against Iran, Palestinians have condemned it as a “stab in the back” as they remain under occupation and do not have their own state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is in talks with other Arab and Muslim leaders now about normalising relations, following the deals with the UAE and, decades ago, Egypt and Jordan.

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First visit in 30 years
Haniya arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday, on his first visit to the country in nearly 30 years, for direct and video-conference talks with other Palestinian groups that oppose Israel’s diplomatic initiative.

Haniya, who heads the political bureau of Hamas, the movement that controls the Gaza Strip, arrived in Ain al-Helweh under the protection of Hamas members and camp guards.

Head of Hamas Ismail Haniya, left, and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah meet in Beirut, Lebanon [Hezbollah Press Office/Anadolu]

Before a cheering crowd of hundreds in Ain al-Helweh, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, including refugees who travelled to see him from other camps, Haniya praised his movement’s military capacity and shrugged off the UAE-Israel normalisation deal.

“Not long ago, our rockets only reached [targets] metres from Gaza’s borders. Today, the resistance in Gaza possesses rockets that can reach Tel Aviv and beyond Tel Aviv,” he said.

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As for normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, that “does not represent the people, neither their conscience, nor their history nor their heritage”, Haniya said, quoted in a Hamas statement.

Israel’s military has in recent weeks targeted Hamas in the Gaza Strip and what it says have been Hezbollah gunmen along its northern border with Lebanon.

It also regularly launches air attacks in war-torn Syria against what it says are Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian fighters fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Nasrallah has been living in secret locations since Hezbollah’s devastating 2006 war with Israel and only makes rare public appearances. He said in 2014 that he often changes his place of residence.


#Newsworthy…

US Jared Kushner pushes other Arab States for more after UAE-Israeli peace deal.

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White House adviser Jared Kushner travels to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia seeking more support for normalising ties.


After accompanying an Israeli delegation to the United Arab Emirates for historic normalisation talks, White House adviser Jared Kushner set off on a tour of other Gulf capitals on Tuesday, looking for more Arab support.

Israel and the UAE set up a joint committee to cooperate on financial services at the talks in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. Kushner, United States President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, accompanied the Israeli delegation Monday on what was billed as the first Israeli commercial flight to the influential Gulf monarchy, which agreed in August to normalise relations with Israel.

Israel exchanged embassies with neighbours Egypt and Jordan under peace deals decades ago. But until now, all other Arab states had demanded it first cede more land to the Palestinians, prompting criticism from stakeholders across the region.

Palestinians have condemned the deal as a stab in the back by a major Arab player while they still lack a state of their own. Turkey threatened to suspend relations with the UAE after normalisation was announced.

Israel’s archrival Iran has been scathing in its criticism. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted Tuesday that “the UAE betrayed the world of Islam, the Arab nations, the region’s countries, and Palestine”.

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Kushner later flew to Bahrain and then Saudi Arabia and is expected also to visit Qatar.

In Bahrain, which houses the US naval headquarters for the region, the state news agency reported that during his meeting with Kushner, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had praised the role the UAE has played in defending Arab and Islamic interests.

In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace, state news agency SPA reported.

While no further officials made statements that suggested they would soon recognise Israel, in remarks reported by the UAE state news agency WAM, Kushner suggested other Arab states could follow quickly.

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Asked when the next would normalise ties with Israel, he was quoted as saying: “Let’s hope it’s months.”

Saudi Arabia allowed the El Al charter flight carrying Kushner and the Israelis to use its airspace, in spite of its public resistance to normalisation.

United States presidential adviser Jared Kushner speaks near head of Israel”s National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat at Abu Dhabi airport following the arrival of the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates [Karim Sahib/AFP]

‘Treachery’
There are overlapping regional interests between Israel and Gulf Arab states, which are mainly ruled by Sunni Muslim monarchs who consider their biggest foe to be Shia Iran.

Israel has long held out the promise that their common enemy could bring them together, in spite of regional opposition to Israeli expansion on the occupied Palestinian territories.

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Iran’s derisive comments were not limited to Twitter. In a fiery speech on Tuesday, Khamenei said: “The Emiratis will be disgraced forever for this treachery against the Islamic world, Arab nations and Palestine.

“The UAE, along with Israelis and evil Americans like the Jewish member of Trump’s family, are working together against the interests of the Islamic world,” Khamenei said, referring to Kushner, who is Jewish.

Asked about Khamenei’s remarks, UAE Foreign Ministry official Jamal al-Musharakh told reporters in Abu Dhabi: “The path to peace and prosperity is not paved with incitement and hate speech.”

Israeli officials have played up the economic benefits of the UAE deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said representatives of the two countries had signed an agreement on cooperation in financial services.

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The state-run Abu Dhabi Investment Office and Invest in Israel, part of Israel’s economy ministry, issued a joint statement saying they had agreed to set out a plan to establish formal cooperation.

The Gulf state’s biggest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank, later said it would open discussions with Israel lenders Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi.

Amid the historic normalisation talks, Kushner spent a morning meeting UAE military officials at an Abu Dhabi airbase that houses US military F-35 jets, advanced stealth aircraft that the Gulf state has long sought to buy despite Israeli objections.

The UAE has said normalisation should remove any hurdle blocking the sale. Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel still opposes selling the jets to the UAE.


#Newsworthy…

After Peace Talk: Plane with Israeli, United States officials lands UAE.

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High-level delegations flew from Israel to the UAE to cement the ‘normalisation’ deal.


High-level delegations from Israel and the US have arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), via the first-ever commercial flight between the Middle Eastern nations, to put final touches on a controversial pact establishing open relations.

Top aides to US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were on board the direct flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Israel’s flag carrier El Al on Monday.

Flight LY971 flew over Saudi Arabia after Riyadh agreed to the Israeli request on Sunday – also a first.

The plane carrying the US and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi has the word “peace” written on it in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.

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It is also named after Kiryat Gat, a Jewish settlement built on the remains of two ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, Iraq al-Manshiyya and al-Faluja.

Announced on August 13, the “normalisation” deal is the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years and was catalysed largely by shared fears of Iran.

Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

The Arabic, English and Hebrew word for ‘peace’ is seen on the Israeli flag carrier El Al’s aircraft on Monday [Christopher Pike/Reuters]

‘Historic flight’

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien head the US delegation. The Israeli team is led by O’Brien’s counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Kushner voiced hope for a more peaceful era in the region.

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“While this is a historic flight, we hope that it will start an even more historic journey in the Middle East and beyond,” Kushner said before boarding the El Al aircraft.

Officials will explore bilateral cooperation in areas such as commerce and tourism, and Israeli defence envoys are due to visit the UAE separately.

Israeli officials hope the two-day trip will produce a date for a Washington signing ceremony, perhaps as early as September, between Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

That could give Trump a foreign policy boost ahead of his re-election bid in November.

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In Jerusalem on Sunday, Kushner called the UAE-Israel deal a “giant step forward”.

“To have played a role in its creation, and I say this as the grandson of two Holocaust survivors, it means more to me and to my family that I can ever express,” Kushner said.

The Trump administration has tried to coax other Arab countries concerned about Iran to engage with Israel. The most powerful of those, Saudi Arabia, has signalled that it is not ready.

But in what could presage a more relaxed posture by Riyadh, the El Al plane will be allowed to overfly Saudi territory to cut flight time.

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On Sunday, Israeli TV channel Kan reported there was Israeli concern that Riyadh may revoke permission to use Saudi airspace at the last moment. If the flight is allowed, it would mark the first time an Israeli commercial plane uses Saudi territory for an overflight. There was no comment from Saudi officials.

‘Soon follow’
O’Brien said on Sunday more Arab and Muslim countries were likely to follow Abu Dhabi’s move.

“We believe that other Arab and Muslim countries will soon follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead and normalise relations with Israel,” O’Brien told reporters after talks at Netanyahu’s residence.

He did not name the states, but Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan.

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Recent news reports suggested Morocco may also be considering a similar agreement with Israel in exchange for military and economic aid.

However, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said last week “we refuse any normalisation with the Zionist entity because this emboldens it to go further in breaching the rights of the Palestinian people”.

Palestinians have condemned the UAE’s move as an abandonment of a policy of linking official relations with Israel to the achievement of Palestinian statehood in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said Kushner and his team were “scrambling to convince as many Arab and Muslim leaders as possible” to give Trump an election boost.

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“They will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region,” she said.

The UAE-Israel agreement hit an immediate speed bump after it was announced, as contradictory comments on the planned Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley were made.

In spite of earlier comments by the UAE and a joint statement by the three countries that indicated the annexation plan would be “suspended”, senior UAE official Omar Ghobash, has admitted his government did not “have any guarantees as such” that Israel would not annex occupied Palestinian territory in the future.

Kushner has said as part of the Israeli-UAE deal that the United States will not consent to Israeli annexation for “some time”.

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Netanyahu, meanwhile, cast the annexation plan – already dogged by disagreements within his governing coalition on the proposed timing – as temporarily on hold. But Israeli officials have signalled they want approval from Israel’s main ally – the US – first.

Weapons sales
The Israel-UAE accord also faces another problem: a possible sale of stealth F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi that could challenge the Israeli technological edge in the Middle East.

Netanyahu has denied reports the UAE deal hinges on the sale of F-35s to the Emirates, saying he opposes a move that could reduce Israel’s military advantage.

“This deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal,” the Israeli leader said last week.

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Ever since the 1960s, the US has guaranteed to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region.

The policy was enhanced two years ago with a law that Washington must ensure, when selling weapons to another country in the Middle East, that Israel retains the ability to defend itself if the arms were to fall into the wrong hands.

Israel has already received a first consignment of American F-35s, a fighter also coveted by other Gulf powers.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told AFP there is no doubt of the importance of the F-35s.

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“I absolutely think that without the F-35, the possibility of buying it, they [the Emiratis] wouldn’t sign the agreement,” said Guzansky. “This is a big hurdle to the fulfilment of the agreement.”

Guzansky noted before Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979, the US sold Turkey and Iran sophisticated weaponry, “and now these countries are hostile towards Israel”.

But some analysts say a deal can be struck to the satisfaction of both Israel and the UAE, and ultimately Saudi Arabia, a longtime customer of US armaments.

“Although this is not really public, from what I understand arrangements are being made that the version that the Arab country gets is not the absolute latest version,” Joshua Teitelbaum, a Gulf specialist at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University told AFP.

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Economic ties
On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott against Israel. Officials from the two countries have said they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology.

Netanyahu told reporters abolishing “the anachronistic boycott” opened the door for “unbridled” trade, tourism and investment.

Statements issued by the UAE and Israel on Sunday said the UAE minister of state and Israel’s agriculture minister had spoken by phone and “pledged to collaborate on projects that address food and water security”.

The UAE, a desert state, relies on imports for about 80 percent of its food, and has heavily encouraged investment in agricultural technology and farmland abroad in recent years.

Israel and the UAE say they want to promote trade – especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the UAE – establish direct air links, and boost tourism.


#Newsworthy…