Turkey threatens to suspend UAE ties over deal with Israel
Turkey has threatened to suspend its diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and recall its envoy, a day after the Gulf state announced it would become the third Arab country to establish full ties with Israel.
“The move against Palestine is not a step that can be stomached,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters on Friday.
He said he had told his foreign minister that “we may also take a step in the direction of suspending diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi leadership or pulling back our ambassador”.
Erdoğan has increasingly styled himself as the Palestinians’ lone regional champion, despite his country having had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades.
Thursday’s announcement has divided the region, with Iran also denouncing it as an act of “strategic stupidity from Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv”. Tehran’s foreign minister described the agreement as a “dagger … unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims”.
As part of the US-brokered deal, the UAE claimed it won a concession for the Palestinians as Israel agreed to temporarily “suspend” its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank.
However, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been clear he remains committed to annexation, and Palestinian leaders slammed the UAE deal as a betrayal that damaged their cause.
The new alliance has broken the status quo in which Israel was mostly isolated by its neighbours as a pariah.
Jordan, which with Egypt was the only other Arab state to have recognised Israel before Thursday’s announcement, issued a statement acknowledging the deal without praising it.
“The effect of the agreement … will be linked to what Israel will do,” said the Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman Safadi. If no progress was made towards a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, “the conflict will deepen [and] explode as a threat to the security of the entire region”, he said.
The Jordanian ruler, King Abdullah II, has been a prominent critic of Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. Amman said more progress on the Palestinian issue was needed.
“[The annexation freeze] must be followed by Israel stopping all its illegal measures that undermine peace opportunities and its violations of Palestinian rights,” Safadi said.
While the Palestinian issue has been sidelined regionally, mutual hostility towards Iran shared by Israel and several Middle East states has been a critical factor in their budding relations in recent years. Meanwhile, Washington has attempted to gather a coalition of Israel and autocratic Arab leaders against Tehran and its allies.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has said another Arab country is likely to establish ties with Israel in the coming days. Bahrain and Oman, which both welcomed the UAE move, are seen as likely candidates.
Trump’s announcement on the UAE appeared to have blindsided the Palestinian leadership and their allies. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, suggested he had no forewarning of it.
“The Palestinian leadership rejects and denounces the UAE, Israeli and US trilateral, surprising, announcement,” said his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, adding that it was a betrayal of Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.
Elsewhere the deal has been widely welcomed, in large part because it was interpreted as halting annexation.
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, called the accord “hugely good news”. He said: “It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank, and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”
Even Trump’s opponent in November’s US election, Joe Biden, said the UAE’s move was “a welcome, brave, and badly needed act of statesmanship” that would help ensure Israel remains an “integral” part of the Middle East.
“Annexation would be a body blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and would oppose it as president,” Biden said.
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, said annexation “would effectively close the door for a renewal of negotiations and destroy the prospect of a viable Palestinian state and the two-state solution”.
Anshel Pfeffer, an Israeli journalist and author of a Netanyahu biography, wrote in the Haaretz newspaper that the Israeli leader had won a significant diplomatic coup while giving nothing to the Palestinians, previously seen as a requisite for regional acceptance.
“It is an achievement for Netanyahu that his predecessors who were prepared to make major concessions to the Palestinians only dreamed of,” he said. “A generation of western diplomats who thought that Israel needs to pay in hard currency for any such breakthrough with the Arab world were tearing their hair out last night.”