Netanyahu makes Muslim New Year message, amid anger over UAE-Israel normalisation deal

Netanyahu makes Muslim New Year message, amid anger over UAE-Israel normalisation deal
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Muslims with the advent of the Islamic new year after anger over a UAE normalisation deal.
3 min read
20 August, 2020
Palestinian protesters burn pictures of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [AFP/Getty]
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Muslims on the advent of the Islamic (Hijri) New Year, saying he expected more Arab countries to follow the UAE and normalise relations with Israel.

"It is my pleasure to congratulate our Muslim citizens on the occasion of the Hijri New Year. I hope this new year will be a year of health, safety, prosperity and success for you and your family," Netanyahu's new year message read.

"The past year was not easy. The coronavirus pandemic hit us all and countries in the region are still facing security challenges. But this year is also the year of peace because we reached a historic peace agreement with the UAE," he continued.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said he believed that other Arab countries would follow the UAE and normalise relations with Israel.

"I expect the UAE will not be the only Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. That is something worth waiting for! Happy New Year!"

The Hijri calendar consists of 12 months of 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the moon, meaning the Islamic year is several days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which is widely used in the world.

Meanwhile, rival Palestinian factions in the West Bank banded together to show their vehement rejection of the UAE's normalisation agreement with Israel.

Hundreds of Palestinians on Wednesday held a protest in the occupied West Bank against last week's announcement that Israel was normalising ties with the Gulf state.

Members of rival groups Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), took part in the rare joint initiative, an AFP journalist reported.

'Stab in the back'

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh was also in attendance.

"Today we tell the world that we are united against 'the deal of the century', annexation and normalisation," Shtayyeh told the rally in the village of Turmus'ayya near Ramallah.

"Any normalisation legitimises the occupation of Palestinian territories," Shtayyeh said.

"It's a stab in the back," he added.

Hamas movement leader Hassan Yousef also spoke at the rally. "No one can transgress our rights, our land and our holy places," he said.

"Today we embody a grassroots Palestinian unit, let us send a message to the world that we are united".

Around 2,000 Palestinians took part in the rally at Turmus'ayya, a village in the north of the West Bank nestled between the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.

They travelled there by bus from other areas of the West Bank and clashes took place between protesters and Israeli forces on the outskirts of the village.

Bombshell announcement

The bombshell announcement last week that Israel and the energy-rich UAE would normalise ties sparked fury among Palestinians, with both Hamas and the PA leadership denouncing the US-brokered agreement.

Under the deal, Israel said it would "suspend" its plans to annex settlements and other territories in the West Bank.

Read more: Netanyahu deletes tweet calling UAE 'advanced democracy' amid backlash

Those annexation plans were outlined in the controversial Middle East peace proposal unveiled in January by US President Donald Trump, which some Palestinians have sardonically dubbed the 'Deal of the Century'. 

The UAE-Israel normalisation deal is the third of its kind between an Arab state and Israel. The two countries are now in negotiations to collaborate across a range of fields, from telecommunications through to healthcare, security and agriculture.

The deal was welcomed by some Arab governments, such as those of Egypt and Bahrain, but widely condemned on a popular level, particularly by Palestinians.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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