Israeli settler delegation visits Dubai following UAE accord

JERUSALEM (AP) — A delegation of Israeli settlers is visiting Dubai, where they met with Emirati business people to discuss commercial opportunities following the United Arab Emirates’ establishment of formal ties with Israel earlier this year.

The visit angered the Palestinians, who view Israeli settlements as a major obstacle to peace and a violation of international law. The Palestinians rejected the normalization agreement as a betrayal of their cause because the UAE broke with a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should only be granted in return for territorial concessions.

The delegation was led by Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, which represents settlements in the northern West Bank. They arrived on Sunday and planned to remain in the Emirates until Thursday.

A council statement released Tuesday said the delegation held “marathon business meetings” with around 20 individuals and companies working in agriculture, pest control and plastics.

“The business people heard from them about the unique needs of the region and discussed with them cooperation, particularly in the fields of agronomy and water desalination,” it said.

“The UAE is an advanced country at the forefront of development and investment, and it is our honor to forge trade and industry ties with them,” Dagan said.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and has since built a sprawling network of settlements that are now home to more than 500,000 Israelis. The Palestinians want both territories to be part of their future state. Most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.

Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said it was “painful to witness Arab cooperation with one of the worst manifestations of aggression against the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli settlements on our land.”

The UAE has defended its decision to become only the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan, saying it advances regional peace efforts. Israel put its plans to annex up to a third of the West Bank, including all the settlements, on hold as part of the agreement, but it insists the pause is only temporary.

Bahrain and Sudan have also agreed to establish ties with Israel. All three agreements were brokered by the Trump administration, which had touted the deals as a historic diplomatic achievement ahead of last week’s U.S. election.

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