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Israel-UAE deal 'a killer' for two-state solution: Palestinians

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Jerusalem (AFP)

The agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalise ties would kill the two-state solution, strengthen "extremists" and undermine the "possibility of peace", chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday.

The fractured Palestinian leadership -- from the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank to Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip -- was united in its opposition to the UAE-Israel deal announced Thursday by US President Donald Trump.

"I really believe that this step is a killer to the two-state solution," Erekat said.

He argued that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have less incentive to compromise on a viable Palestinian state "if he believes that Arab countries will line up to make peace with him".

In a conference call with foreign reporters, Erekat said that "people like Netanyahu and extremists in Israel believe that the two-state solution is off the table".

Meanwhile, "extremists on my side are (saying), 'we told you so from the beginning: the two state solution is off the table'," he added.

Erekat condemned the agreement as a "desperate attempt" by Trump to notch a foreign policy success.

He further dismissed senior White House advisor and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, an architect of the UAE-Israel pact, as displaying "a combination of arrogance and ignorance".

Netanyahu said Sunday that the agreement upended the notion that "no Arab state would agree to open peace with Israel, before the conflict with the Palestinians would be resolved".

"That mistaken notion gave the Palestinians de-facto veto power over peacemaking between Israel and Arab states and held Israel and the Arab world hostage to the most extreme Palestinian demands," Netanyahu said during his Sunday cabinet meeting.

According to a joint US, Israel, UAE statement, the Jewish state has agreed to "suspend" its plans to annex settlements and other territory in the occupied West Bank.

Those annexations plans were outlined in Trump's Middle East peace proposal, unveiled in January.

Netanyahu has said he remains committed to West Bank annexations, but agreed to hold for now, as part of his pledge to Trump.

The Palestinians have called for emergency meetings of the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation to reject the Israel-UAE deal, but have not received replies from either body, Erekat said.

The top Palestinian negotiator also said he had written to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to ask them to pressure the UAE to cancel the agreement.

"I have received an answer from the Saudi foreign minister reassuring me that Saudi Arabia's position is for a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution," Erekat said, noting Bahrain "did not answer me yet".

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia has been conspicuously silent on the deal with no official reaction emerging from Riyadh.

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