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The agreement between the UAE and Israel that will be signed on Tuesday mentions the Palestinian issue and the two-state solution as part of a reference to previous agreements which were signed, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash told me in a Zoom briefing.

Why it matters: Gargash’s comments gave the first substantive details from the agreement which up to now remained completely secret. The UAE pushed back on criticism against the agreement, with Israel stressing the deal will also help the Palestinians.

  • Gargash said in the briefing that the agreements with Israel will give the UAE and also Bahrain “real leverage” over Israel and will allow both countries to make it clear to Israel that it needs to compromise and have a more rational policy on the Palestinian issue.
  • He added the UAE received clear commitments from Israel and the U.S. that there will be no West Bank annexation for a long period of time. “The Palestinians should take advantage of the situation and reengage – an empty chair policy will not bring any results," he said.

Gargash said that the Palestinian issue will be mentioned in the preamble while the rest of the agreement will deal with bilateral issues like the opening of embassies, trade and tourism.

  • “We broke the psychological barrier. This was the hard part and now we want to move forward towards a warm peace," he stressed.  

The ceremony today will include signing on three different documents, U.S. officials said:

  1. The first is the “Abraham accords declaration” which will be signed by Trump, Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain. The declaration will focus on the intentions of all the parties to promote peace in the region.
  2. The second document will be a “peace declaration” between Israel and Bahrain – a general document short of an agreement which will include a commitment by both parties to draft a peace treaty.
  3. The third document will be the Israel-UAE peace treaty. The treaty will come into force only after a vote in the Israeli cabinet and in the Israeli Knesset.

Behind the scenes: Netanyahu was notified by the Israeli attorney general several hours before the ceremony that he has no authority to sign the agreement with the UAE, because according to Israeli law only the foreign minister or a minister which he gave power of attorney can sign bilateral agreements with other countries.

  • In the middle of the night Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi, one of Netanyahu’s biggest political rivals, had to go over the agreement and consult with lawyers until he finally sent Netanyahu a letter giving him authorization to sign the agreement.

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Moroccan foreign minister urges Biden to keep Trump's deal

Bourita (C) with Kushner (L) on Tuesday in Rabat. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita is urging the incoming Biden administration to preserve the deal sealed by President Trump earlier this month, under which the U.S. agreed to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and Morocco agreed to resume diplomatic relations with Israel.

What he's saying: "We realistically think the administration will find a good rationale to preserve this," Bourita told me in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a trilateral U.S.-Israel-Morocco summit on Tuesday in Rabat.

Dec 22, 2020 - World

Israel's government collapses, with yet another election due in March

Netanyahu at an election rally in 2019. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel’s power-sharing government collapsed on Tuesday, only seven months after it was formed, putting Israel on course for its fourth elections in two years.

Why it matters: The government was formed by two rivals — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz — to end a political stalemate, but it was totally dysfunctional. Its collapse means Gantz will not rotate in as prime minister next November, as the two had agreed in their coalition deal.

Dec 23, 2020 - World

Scoop: Israel tries to use Milley as conduit to Biden on Iran

Milley in a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty

Israel used the recent visit by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to pass on several messages to the incoming Biden administration regarding Iran and other regional developments, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel is very concerned about President-elect Biden's plans on Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal, but has yet to open direct contacts with the incoming administration. Milley is a potential bridge to Biden's White House because he is expected to stay on beyond the transition.