JERUSALEM — The Knesset, Israel’s 120-seat parliament, today overwhelmingly ratified the Abraham Accords, the peace treaty signed with the United Arab Emirates at the White House on Sept. 15.
The final vote was 80 to 13.
It took place just before 8 p.m., local time.
It came just days after the Israeli prime minister and UAE Crown Prince spoke by telephone and agreed to visit each other’s capitals of Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, respectively.
During the lengthy floor discussion and debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the treaty as historic and unprecedented, as it involved no requirements to transfer land to an Arab as with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
"This is a day with few like it in the history of the country — a day when a peace agreement with an Arab state is brought for approval by the Knesset," Netanyahu told legislators.
"We are presenting a peace agreement that does not contain secret addenda, it does not contain concealed appendices,” he added. “Today we are tightening our relations with the Emirates and doing so during to our constant struggle against coronavirus.”
“Since the beginning of Zionism, one of our hands has been holding a weapon in defense and the other hand was stretched out to everyone who wants peace,” Netanyahu declared. “They say peace is made with enemies. False. Peace is made with those who have stopped being enemies. Peace is made with those who desire peace and who no longer remain committed to your annihilation.”
“It’s a warm peace, between peoples,” the prime minister said of the agreement with the UAE. “Israel, which for decades was perceived as an enemy, is today seen as a staunch and even essential ally. It is incredible that here in the Knesset of Israel there are some who would vote against peace. Those who are ostensibly in the peace camp oppose peace....You do not want real peace, you want the semblance of peace in which Israel gradually disappears.”
The treaty was praised by Benny Gantz, the alternate prime minister and current Defense Minister.
It was also lauded by Yair Lapid, the opposition leader, though Lapid took the opportunity to blast the current government’s mishandling of the COVID crisis and called for Netanyahu to step down.
Members of the 15-member Joint List — Israel’s Arab Knesset members — declared Thursday morning that they were opposed to the treaty and would vote against it.
“Replacing the principle of land for peace with Netanyahu's deceptive vision of peace for peace will bring disaster to the country and all its people. This approach ensures the continuation of the conflict, suffering and bloodshed," said the Arab legislators in a written statement.
The story has dominated the Israeli media all day. Here are some of the headlines:
- Netanyahu hails ‘warm peace’ with UAE as Knesset debates normalization deal — PM says no hidden annexes or secret additions to accord signed in D.C.; opposition leader Lapid calls agreement ‘excellent’ but ex-defense minister Ya’alon to boycott voteץ
- Knesset meets for celebratory session to approve UAE deal — Netanyahu lauds rare agreement with Arab state, again denies secret arms deal; predominantly Arab Joint List to vote against treaty, says agreement 'ensures continuation of conflict, suffering and bloodshed,' slams PM for 'deceptive vision of peace for peace'.
- Netanyahu: No secrets in UAE deal
- Netanyahu: 'Perceived for decades as enemy, Israel now seen as strong ally'
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.