Israel hails 'new era' with Sudan but Palestinians lament 'new stab in the back'


FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a peace agreement to establish diplomatic ties, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, during a news conference at the prime minster office in Jerusalem, August 13, 2020. Abir Sultan /Pool via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel hailed a new era in its relations with the Arab world on Friday after the announcement of plans to normalize ties with Sudan, an agreement the Palestinians described as a "new stab in the back".

"This is a new era. An era of true peace. A peace that is expanding with other Arab countries - three of them in recent weeks," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement. Israel reached normalization agreements last month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

"In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, the three principles of the Arab League were adopted in 1967: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel," said Netanyahu.

"Whereas today Khartoum says - yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel and to normalization with Israel."

Israel's recent rapprochement with some of its Arab neighbors reflects shifting regional priorities, and shared concerns about Iran.

But Palestinians say Arab countries have set back the cause of peace by abandoning a long-standing demand that Israel give up land for a Palestinian state before it can receive recognition.

“The Palestinian presidency stresses its condemnation and its rejection to normalization of ties with the state of the Israeli occupation, which occupies the land of Palestine,” said a statement published by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's office, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Sudan’s move "represents a new stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a betrayal of the just Palestinian cause”.

NETANYAHU SIDESTEPS U.S. DOMESTIC POLITICS

The announcement of a U.S. brokered deal between Israel and a third Arab state comes less than two weeks before President Donald Trump faces voters in an election.

Netanyahu tweeted about the deal, including in Arabic, and thanked Trump and his team for their role in brokering it. He said Israeli and Sudanese delegations would soon meet to discuss cooperation in areas including agriculture and trade.

But during a telephone call with Trump - a close ally - Netanyahu sidestepped remarks from Trump denigrating his opponent Joe Biden, who leads in opinion polls.

“Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi, Sleepy Joe... Somehow I don’t think so,” Trump asked Netanyahu on the call.

Netanyahu, reliant on bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, responded: "Uh... one thing I can tell you is we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America."

In Gaza, a Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, a spokesman for the group, Fawzi Barhoum, told Reuters Sudan’s move was a step in the "wrong direction". Sudan, under President Omar Bashir who was deposed last year after 30 years in power, was long an ally of Hamas.

"Sudan joining other countries in normalizing ties with the Israeli occupation will encourage the Zionist enemy to commit more crimes and more violations against the Palestinian people," said Barhoum.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Rami Ayyub in Tel Aviv, Writing by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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