The words “betrayal” and “division” echoed throughout Gaza on Friday in the aftermath of the agreement that normalised ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates while eclipsing the Palestinian issue.
On Thursday evening, shock waves shook the Middle East as US
President Donald Trump the normalisation agreement, only the third between the
Jewish state and an Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan.
For the Palestinians, the UAE has sacrificed the Palestinian
cause to gain commercial relations with Israel.
On a sunny morning in the Gaza Strip, after another
overnight Israeli air strike in retaliation for incendiary balloons, Abu Alaa
al-Sarsak, 70, a former local government employee, shared the sentiment.
But it was also the result of “divisions” among
the Palestinians themselves, he said.
For the past 13 years, the Palestinians have been split
between Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority of Abbas,
based in the West Bank.
“If the division between the Palestinian Authority and
Hamas continues, there will be normalisation with other Arab and Gulf
states,” Sarsak said.
Talal Drimli, an owner of an auto parts store, also
attributed it in part to Palestinian internal strife.
“The division (of the Palestinians) encouraged the
Emirates to strike a deal with the (Israeli) occupation,” the 56-year-old
Late Thursday, Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh
discussed ways to head off the planned normalisation.
The Palestinians have also called for emergency meetings of
the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to support their
Normalisation would lead to Tel Aviv-Abu Dhabi flights
enabling not only trade but also Emirati visits to Muslim religious sites in
Jerusalem, as pointed out by Trump’s special advisor Jared Kushner.
‘Thrown under the bus’
The Israeli government had previously been discussing
implementation of Trump’s Middle East plan, in particular annexation of parts
of the West Bank.
The UAE had publicly warned Israel against any unilateral
annexation, which it said would jeopardise the notion of normalising relations.
On Thursday, annexation was “postponed” and
But the temporary Israeli removal from the table of
annexation of their land has not pacified the Palestinians.
“The Palestinians are furious, they see themselves as
being thrown under the bus” by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the effective UAE
ruler, said Yoel Guzansky, an analyst at the Institute for National Security
Studies in Tel Aviv.
“The UAE tried to sell a narrative that it did this in
order to stop annexation,” he said, and “not just to contribute to
stability but also to keep the two-state solution alive.”
Annexation of settlements and the Jordan Valley would have
fragmented the West Bank to the point that a Palestinian state would have been
For Ali Jarbawi, a former minister and a professor at
Birzeit University in the West Bank, it is clear the Palestinian cause is no
longer central in regional politics.
“The Palestinians are now facing one of the most
difficult times in their history, and their options are limited,” he told
Beyond feeling “betrayed” and “divided”,
Palestinians are “exhausted”, said Samira Ghazal, 21, a secretary in
an IT company in Israeli-blockaded Gaza, where unemployment is running at
around 50 percent.
“Normalisation has existed for a long time and I do not
blame the Emirates for pursuing their interests,” she said.
“The people are exhausted and unable to resist,”
she said. “The Palestinians are weak, the Arabs are weak and Israel is
backed by America.”
But Jihad Hussein, an office worker in the West Bank
political capital Ramallah, remained defiant.
“The Palestinian people have been stabbed in the back
by the Emirati leadership, but neither this agreement nor anything else will
undermine our will to fight for freedom and independence,” he said.