18:57 GMT26 February 2021
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    Last week, the White House confirmed it had temporarily frozen some foreign arms sales, and Bloomberg reported the freeze included F-35s destined for the United Arab Emirates. The Trump administration used the fifth-generation fighter jets as a lucrative ‘carrot’ to get Abu Dhabi to sign a normalisation of relations deal with Tel Aviv last year.

    Stopping Israeli plans to ‘apply sovereignty’ to wide swathes of Palestinian territory in the West Bank was a key motivation in Abu Dhabi’s decision to normalise ties with Israel, Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US, has said.

    “The truth is that the Abraham Accords were about preventing annexation. The reason it happened, the way it happened, at the time it happened was to prevent annexation,” al-Otaiba said on Monday, while addressing a virtual panel on US policy for the Middle East hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC-sponsored think tank.

    “I had a lot of conversations with the folks in the White House before the Abraham Accords - trying to explain to them that annexation is not going to be like moving the Embassy, it’s not going to be like the Golan decision,” the ambassador said, referring respectively to Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there, and the US recognition of Israeli-occupied Syrian territories as part of Israel.

    “This is going to have a profoundly negative impact on the region, specifically on our friends in Jordan, on the rest of us who have begun opening up with Israel,” the envoy said, recalling what he told US officials. “So for me – the guy who negotiated this deal - this was really about stopping annexation and saving the two-state solution.”
    Palestinians and foreigners march towards Israel's controversial separation wall between the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah and the Israeli settlement of Modiin Ilit during a demonstration against settlements in the area, on February 17, 2017
    © AFP 2021 / ABBAS MOMANI
    Palestinians and foreigners march towards Israel's controversial separation wall between the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah and the Israeli settlement of Modiin Ilit during a demonstration against settlements in the area, on February 17, 2017

    Al-Otaiba dismissed suggestions that Abu Dhabi had sold out the Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims, saying “on the contrary”, the normalisation pact was aimed at preventing a “disaster” of a “one-state solution".

    The envoy also dismissed the Biden administration’s move to review the sale of F-35s and other arms to the UAE, calling the freeze an “absolutely pro-forma, routine, ticking-the-box exercise because they just inherited, literally right before they took office, one of the largest arms deals in the world – one worth $23 billion, including F-35s among others. But they are going to find what we already know. It was done through a very straightforward negotiating process,” he said. The envoy added that the weapons deal to its “partners” in the Middle East was a good way for the US to be able to refocus its international efforts on confronting China and Russia.

    ‘Stab in the Back’

    Officials in the Palestinian territories, Iran, Syria, and protesters in countries around the Middle East blasted the UAE and Bahrain over their decision to sign the Abraham Accords with Israel in September, describing the move as a “betrayal” akin to being “stabbed in the back”.

    (L-R) Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.
    © AFP 2021 / ALEX WONG
    (L-R) Foreign Affairs Minister of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House on September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.

    The accords were joined by Sudan and Morocco in the final months of Trump’s tenure as president, with Khartoum rewarded by being removed from America’s state sponsors of terrorism list. Rabat, on the other hand, has reportedly received consideration for billions in investment.

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