‘Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop,’ warns Gulf nation’s minister of foreign affairs
‘Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process,’ said Anwar Gargash (AFP)

A senior United Arab Emirates (UAE) official said on Monday that any unilateral move by Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank would be a serious setback for any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post.

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“Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process, undermine Palestinian self-determination and constitute a rejection of the international and Arab consensus towards stability and peace,” he wrote.

At a meeting of legislators of his rightwing Likud party last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his intention to annex some illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley as early as 1 July, describing it as a “historic opportunity”.

Netanyahu has cited US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, released in January, as underpinning his de facto annexation.

Despite Palestinian objections to the so-called “deal of the century”, US-allied Gulf states, including the UAE, have largely voiced support for Trump’s plan.

UAE coronavirus aid rejected

Last month, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected coronavirus aid sent via an Emirati flight to Israel, saying that aid must be sent in coordination with Palestinian leadership and not with Israel.

“There has been no coordination with the PA, so we cannot receive such aid,” the PA Minister of Health Mai Alkaila told a news conference.

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“We are a sovereign authority. Coordination must be direct with us.”

The Etihad cargo plane loaded with humanitarian aid for Palestinians to help curb the spread of coronavirus was the first publicly announced flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel.

Several Israeli media outlets reported that the flight took place in coordination with Israel’s foreign ministry and the UN’s World Food Programme.

Israel and the UAE do not have formal diplomatic relations, despite their de facto alliance against Iran.

‘Normalisation’ opposed

Palestinians and their supporters oppose “normalization” efforts with Israel, arguing that diplomatic pressure is an essential tool to get Israel to put an end to its occupation of Palestinian territories and the violation of human rights.

Last year, Israel’s then-Foreign Minister Israel Katz visited Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, where he discussed the “Iranian threat” with Emirati officials, his office said at the time.

In 2018, Miri Regev, who was serving as Israel’s sports minister, also flew to the Emirati capital, notably going on a public tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Israel was also due to participate in the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, which was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Israeli media reported in April that the Emirati government offered to evacuate Israeli citizens stuck in Morocco because of the pandemic.

Jordan threat

Last month, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Israel’s annexation would “choke off any hope of peace”.

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Speaking to Jewish-American supporters at a virtual fundraiser, Biden vowed to reverse Trump’s “undercutting of peace” and resume aid to Palestinians.

“Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace,” he said.

Jordan has also threatened to review its relationship with Israel if the annexation plans went ahead.

Other countries have also condemned the annexation plans, including much of the European Union, which has warned it could affect Israel’s ties with the bloc.