Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has "delayed" annexation plans in line with an agreement with the UAE brokered by the US, that he will "never give up our rights to our land".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he agreed to delay annexation in the occupied West Bank, as part of a controversial deal with the UAE, but the plans remain "on the table".
Soon after Donald Trump's announcement on Thursday, Netanyahu said that in agreement with the US president he had "delayed" West Bank annexation plans, but that he would "never give up our rights to our land".
Netanyahu, like many in Israel, refers to the occupied West Bank as Judea and Samaria and claims the territory as part of the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
Israel talked of "history" and Palestinians of being "blindsided" after Thursday's surprise announcement of a deal to normalise relations between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates.
In a nationwide televised address, Netanyahu said the deal would lead to "full and formal peace" with the Gulf Arab state and voiced hope that other countries in the region would follow the UAE's example.
Netanyahu said it also entailed acceding to a request from Trump to "temporarily wait" on implementing the Israeli leader's pledge to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Palestine taken by surprise
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemed to be taken by surprise by the Israel-UAE deal and was holding meetings with key aides.
He has refused all political dealings with the Trump administration for more than two years, accusing it of taking a consistently pro-Israel stance.
Asked if the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization were aware the deal was coming, Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator, said:
The PLO, the PA, the Palestinian leadership did not know this was coming. We were blindsided. Their secret dealings are now completely out in the open. It is a complete sell-out.”
Much use was made of the word "normalisation" – a term that has very different connotations on either side.
For Israel and the White House, it signified a welcome rapprochement with a key Gulf player in a region from which Israel has long been isolated, aside from two peace treaties with its immediate neighbours Egypt and Jordan.
But for many Palestinians, the word has overwhelmingly negative connotations.
Ashrawi decried what she called the UAE's "secret dealings/normalisation", and in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the armed Islamist group Hamas, said:
“Normalisation is a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause, and it serves only the Israeli occupation.”
The deal provides a diplomatic achievement for Netanyahu after weeks of domestic criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, but also angered right-wing Israeli settlers who want to annex the West Bank.
Netanyahu said that while he had promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to areas, including Jewish settlements, in the territory, which Palestinians seek for a future state, he had made clear he first needed a green light from Washington.
"He deceived us. He has deceived half a million residents of the area and hundreds of thousands of voters," said David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council of settlers.
From Trump's Middle East peace plan to now
Israel seized control of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967 and has occupied it ever since.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements constructed in the territory, which Palestinians regard as the mainstay of their future state.
Trump, a staunch supporter of Israel, had first tapped his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to forge a Middle East peace plan which saw enclaves for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
Trump unveiled it in Washington on January 28, 2020, alongside Netanyahu, who hailed it as a "realistic path to a durable peace".
It gave the Jewish state a US green light to annex areas including the Jordan Valley, a strategic strip along the Jordanian border, as well as some 130 Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Under the plan, Jerusalem was to be Israel's "undivided" capital, and economic aid would flow to the Palestinians, who would get their own state.