(August 13, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel groups instantly applauded Israel and the United Arab Emirates for a deal on Thursday to normalize relations between the two countries—the first of its kind between Israel and a Middle Eastern country in more than 25 years, following Jordan and Egypt.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called the development “a historic breakthrough for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.”
The lobbying group also called on “other Arab states and the Palestinians to follow their lead,” and for the Palestinian leadership to “end its boycott of Israel and America and return to the negotiating table.”
“In taking this historic step, the UAE is paving the way for additional Arab and Muslim states to normalize their ties with Israel, which can help transform the region and enhance the prospects for a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in a statement. “This agreement is a bulwark against the forces of extremism and radicalism in the region.”
“Having engaged with states in the Arabian Gulf and throughout the Arab world for decades, we hope this opens the door to further agreements between Israel and her Arab neighbors,” tweeted the American Jewish Committee.
AJC celebrates today’s historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. ????????????????????????
Having engaged with states in the Arabian Gulf and throughout the Arab world for decades, we hope this opens the door to further agreements between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) August 13, 2020
“We welcome the news about Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalizing relations,” Mark Wilf, chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, told JNS. “The two countries have so much to gain from working together, and this decision could pave the way for greater recognition of Israel throughout the region and increase the prospects of peace.”
“This is a tremendously important and positive development,” B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS. “The growing realignment of interests in the region will certainly contribute to stability in a chaotic neighborhood, and send a strong message to those who seek to promote that chaos that their efforts will not succeed.”
Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS applauded the deal, saying “we hope other Arab states do the same. We look forward to UAE establishing its embassy in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, and referring to Israel as the Jewish state.”
He added his expectation that “the suspension of declaring sovereignty over legal Jewish areas of Judea-Samaria is temporary and will soon move forward.”
It is currently unknown where the Emirati embassy in Israel will be located. Most countries have embassies in Tel Aviv. The United States and Guatemala are the only ones to have theirs in Jerusalem, both having relocated there in May 2018.
‘A precedent for formal relations with other countries’
Sarah Stern, founder and president of Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), called the development “a momentous day” and “a historic breakthrough.”
“This shows that another major Sunni Arab nation has finally come to accept that Israel is here to stay, and that it has a great deal more to gain by living and working side by side together and penetrating through the decades of old animosities,” she told JNS.
Jewish Council of Public Affairs president and CEO David Bernstein said the breakthrough was “a great day for Israel and prospects for peace in the Middle East.”
“Israel has been quietly cooperating with Gulf states for several years,” he told JNS. “Normalizing with the Emirates sets a precedent for formal relations with other countries in the region as well.”
“All Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike should hail today’s Abraham Agreement. Today is a historic day—two allies of the U.S. now become open strategic partners in the region to thwart Iran and other Jihadists,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in a statement. “It also signals further dramatic normalization between Arabs and Jews in the region, a goal the [Wiesenthal Center] has contributed to for over 15 years.”
The American Sephardi Federation (ASF) posted on Twitter that the peace deal is a loss for Iran and its proxies, including Hezbollah.
“Reactionary forces (@khamenei_ir, Hizbullah, Hamas, Houthis) suffered a devastating defeat thanks to #UAE & @Israel’s new path to peace, prosperity, & progress, ending decades of conflict &, worse, the wasting of time & talent,” tweeted ASF.
Reactionary forces (@khamenei_ir, Hizbullah, Hamas, Houthis) suffered a devastating defeat thanks to #UAE & @Israel‘s new path to peace, prosperity, & progress, ending decades of conflict &, worse, the wasting of time & talent.@Conf_of_Pres @SecPompeo @MohamedBinZayed @ABZayed https://t.co/bYQKRYcbQP
— American Sephardi Federation (ASF) (@AmericanSephard) August 13, 2020
“This is an historic announcement. We consistently pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and today, those prayers were answered in a big way,” said Christians United for Israel (CUFI) founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee. “In the context of the discussion about extending Israeli sovereignty to portions of Judea and Samaria, we made clear in late June that this is precisely what the Gulf states should do, and we hope other Arab nations will follow the UAE’s lead.”
“This proves yet again that when Israel’s Arab neighbors are prepared to make peace with the Jewish state, Israel will always be there to meet them,” added Hagee.
Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Duchman said “in my years serving as rabbi in the United Arab Emirates, I have witnessed firsthand the power of respectful and peaceful collaboration: Jewish life has blossomed like a desert rose. Due to the immense support the UAE leadership has for our growing community, we have been able to pray together and study Torah together, build synagogues and a Jewish school, and provide access to kosher food for all. Given all of this benevolent support, today’s announcement of peace and normalization of relations is not surprising to me at all.”
‘An important step towards peace’
Even organizations critical of the Trump administration’s Mideast policies hailed the peace agreement.
“Israel suspends annexation effort. UAE agrees to normalizing ties with Israel. This is an important step towards peace. Congratulations to the leaders of Israel and the UAE,” tweeted the Democratic Majority for Israel.
Israel suspends annexation effort. UAE agrees to normalizing ties with Israel.
This is an important step towards peace.
Congratulations to the leaders of Israel and the UAE.
— Democratic Majority for Israel (@DemMaj4Israel) August 13, 2020
On Twitter, J Street touted that the deal temporarily stopped Israel’s plans to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria, though the left-wing lobby acknowledged the agreement as “steps in the right direction.”
“Let’s have no illusions, though: Full Arab-Israeli peace can’t be made w/o Palestinians or while ‘de facto’ annexation continues unabated,” tweeted J Street.
J Street welcomes both “suspension” of de jure annexation plans & normalization of Israel-UAE ties. Those are steps in the right direction.
Let’s have no illusions, though: Full Arab-Israeli peace can’t be made w/o Palestinians or while ‘de facto’ annexation continues unabated.
— J Street (@jstreetdotorg) August 13, 2020
“While this news is welcome, much better news would be an end to the Israeli government’s de facto annexation of the West Bank through ongoing settlement expansion and steps to reverse Israel’s occupation of the West Bank,” said Americans for Peace Now president and CEO Hadar Susskind in a statement.
“We are relieved to see President Trump’s dangerous gamble on unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank come to an end,” said Jewish Democratic Council of America board chairman and former Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) in a statement. “By taking annexation off the table, today’s Israeli government announcement addresses the problem created by the Trump administration’s failure to oppose it from the outset.”
Israel, however, has said that sovereignty plans have only been suspended and not ended.
In a press conference on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he agreed temporarily to suspend sovereignty plans but is committed to carrying out the application in the West Bank, only in coordination with the United States.
U.S. support for Israel to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank would come “much sooner” than several years, according to officials.
Presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called the agreement a “historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East.”
“The coming together of Israel and Arab states builds on the efforts of multiple administrations to foster a broader Arab-Israeli opening, including the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to build on the Arab peace initiative,” he said.
Biden added that Israel applying sovereignty “would be a body blow to the cause of peace” and “virtually end any chance of a two-state solution that would secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and uphold the right of Palestinians to a state of their own.”
Biden pledged that, if elected, he would “seek to build on this progress and will challenge all the nations of the region to keep pace.”
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