United Arab Emirates scraps trade embargo against Israel

Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (C) Mohamed Bin Thaaloob al-Derai, President of UAE Wrestling Judo & Kickboxing Federation (L) and International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer (R) chat during the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament in the Emarati capital Abu Dhabi on October 27, 2018. - Israel's national anthem was played at a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi after one of its athletes won gold in what was thought to be a first in the Gulf emirate. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

The ruler of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has scrapped an economic boycott against Israel, allowing trade and financial agreements between the countries in another key step towards normal ties.

The US-brokered deal to open up relations between Israel and the UAE was announced on August 13. It required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians.

UAE’s state-run WAM news agency said the move formally ending the boycott was made on the orders of UAE’s leader, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

WAM said the new decree allows Israelis and Israeli firms to do business in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. It also allows for the purchase and trade of Israeli goods.

“The decree of the new law comes within the UAE’s efforts to expand diplomatic and commercial cooperation with Israel,” WAM said.

It lays out “a roadmap toward launching joint cooperation, leading to bilateral relations by stimulating economic growth and promoting technological innovation”. 

On Monday, the first direct commercial flight by Israel’s flagship carrier El Al is expected in Abu Dhabi, carrying US and Israeli officials including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Saturday’s announcement formally eliminates a 1972 law on the UAE’s books, since just after the Emirates’s formation.

That law mirrored the widely held stance by Arab nations at that time that recognition of Israel would only come after the Palestinians had an independent state of their own.

The UAE-Israel agreement was slammed by Palestinian groups after it was announced, with the groups saying it does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause and ignores the rights of the Palestinian people.

Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip, condemned the deal, which it said was a “treacherous stab in the back”. 

“This agreement does absolutely not serve the Palestinian cause, it rather serves the Zionist narrative. This agreement encourages the occupation [Israel] to continue its denial of the rights of our Palestinian people, and even to continue its crimes against our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said in a statement.

The Fatah movement said the UAE is “flouting its national, religious and humanitarian duties” towards the Palestinian cause.

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” Hanan Ashrwai, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, said.

The UAE is becoming the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to currently have diplomatic relations with Israel. 

In recent years, the UAE has held quiet talks with Israel and allowed Israelis with second passports into the country for trade and talks.

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