The United Arab Emirates betrayed the Islamic world and the Palestinians by reaching a deal towards normalising ties with Israel, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech.
The Palestinians have fiercely opposed the normalisation as weakening traditional Arab refusal to form ties with Israel before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
That past Arab support was one of the Palestinians’ few advantages in moribund peace talks with Israel. Palestinians have held public protests and burned the UAE flag in anger.
“Of course, the UAE’s betrayal will not last long, but this stigma will always be remembered. They allowed the Zionist regime to enter the region and forgot Palestine,” Khamenei said on Tuesday. “The Emiratis will be disgraced forever… I hope they wake up and compensate for what they did.”
Iranian authorities have harshly criticised the United States-brokered deal between the UAE and Tehran’s longtime foe Israel, with some officials warning the UAE and Israel fostering closer ties risks conflagration in the Middle East.
An Emirati official dismissed Khamenei’s comments.
“The path to peace and prosperity is not through incitement and hate speech,” foreign ministry official Jamal al-Musharakh said.
“That kind of rhetoric is counterproductive to peace in the region.”
Israel and the UAE expect economic benefits from the deal, the first such accommodation between an Arab country and Israel in more than 20 years, which was forged largely through shared distrust of regional foe, Iran.
‘We reject this conspiracy’: Israelis and Palestinians react to UAE deal
Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, worried it would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with the Arab countries.
Emirati officials have attempted to spin the agreement as being struck in return for Israel suspending its plan to annex large parts of the illegally occupied West Bank, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said annexation was only temporarily off the table.
The UAE’s foreign minister recorded a message for the Palestinian diaspora living there on Monday, the day of the first commercial flight between the Israel and the Emirates.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said he wanted to reassure the Palestinian community of his country’s commitment to “establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
“We will continue to support the Palestinian cause based on our historic stance that stems from a deeply rooted, unshakable belief that will never change as a result of any considerations,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
On Saturday, the UAE announced it was scrapping its economic boycott of Israel, with officials from the two countries saying they are looking at cooperation in defence, medicine, agriculture, tourism and technology as part of the deal.
On Monday, the first direct flight by Israel’s flagship carrier El Al landed in Abu Dhabi, carrying US and Israeli officials including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The UAE is the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Unlike the two other countries, the Gulf state does not share a border 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.
The Trump administration has tried to coax other Arab countries to engage with Israel. Israeli officials have publicly mentioned Oman, Bahrain and Sudan as countries who may follow suit.
But in a statement earlier this month, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that his government had no mandate to normalise ties with Israel at this time.