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US Jewish groups denounce Israel-UAE deal as 'nothing to celebrate'

De facto annexation of occupied Palestinian territory continues, say liberal groups
Jewish Voice for Peace said the UAE-Israel agreement was nothing more than theatrics
Jewish Voice for Peace says UAE-Israel agreement is nothing more than theatrics (AFP/File photo)
By Azad Essa in New York City

Several left-wing and liberal US Jewish organisations rejected an announcement by Israel and the United Arab Emirates that they plan to normalise relations, saying it was "nothing to celebrate".

"Until Israel is no longer oppressing Palestinians and violating their rights, building illegal settlements, maintaining an apartheid regime and attacking human rights defenders - Trump and Netanyahu's latest ploy, aided and abetted by the UAE, is nothing more than theatrics," Stefanie Fox, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, told Middle East Eye on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, Israel and the UAE reached an agreement to establish bilateral ties, a deal slammed by the Palestinians as a "treacherous stab in the back".

Under the agreement, which was brokered by US President Donald Trump, Israel said it had agreed to suspend the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.

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However, speaking to reporters later in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said annexation was "still on the table" and that it was something he was "committed to".

"Israel's creeping de facto annexation of Palestinian land must stop, and JVP is proud to stand with our Palestinian allies in defending Palestinian rights and fighting all forms of anti-Palestinian oppression," Fox said.

In an equally strong riposte to the developments, IfNotNow, a Jewish-American youth group committed to ending US support for the Israeli occupation, said there was "nothing to celebrate". 

The group described the deal as little more than a distraction from the "pandemic, economic crisis, civil unrest, and plummeting support from the public in the US and Israel".

"After months of mounting pressure against Prime Minister Netanyahu's annexation plans from around the world, this treaty - recognising the informal ties that have existed between Israel and the UAE for years - gives Netanyahu diplomatic cover to say that he stopped formal annexation of the West Bank," the group said.

"Meanwhile, the Israeli government can continue doing exactly what it has already been doing for decades - removing Palestinians from their land and stripping them of their rights. 

"Once again, Palestinians, who are not mentioned in this document, are treated as political pawns and excluded from decision-making about their own future."

The statements from JVP and IfNotNow come as Jewish Americans, numbering about six million and fundamentally diverse in religious and political opinion, are increasingly turning their backs on expectations of unconditional support for Israel. 

J-Street, a liberal Zionist group that supports a two-state solution, welcomed the move to halt annexation and the consolidation of relations between Israel and the UAE. 

In a statement it said that the agreement was "welcome news for all who wish to see a stable and prosperous Israel living in peace and security alongside all of its regional neighbours".

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But J-Street added although annexation was "apparently off the table", "de facto annexation continues every day unabated".

"Those who seek a real and lasting peace and security for Israel and its neighbours must continue to advocate for an end to occupation, settlement expansion and ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people - even if the threat of formal annexation is halted."

Under Netanyahu, Israel has been quietly developing relations with Gulf Arab states for a number of years.  

Over the past year in particular, there have been a series of overtures between Israel and the UAE. 

In May, the first direct commercial flight from the UAE landed in Tel Aviv. And in June, the UAE and Israel announced they would be partnering to tackle the coronavirus, further demonstrating the increased activity between the two states.

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