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- The two-time prime minister, a long-time defender of the Palestinians, has criticised the US-brokered agreement as a step backwards for peace
- Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, has warned the deal could trigger terror attacks there and in the Middle East
Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday threw cold water on the landmark accord reached by the United Arab Emirates and Israel, warning it was a step backwards for peace and would divide the Muslim world into “warring factions”.
He was joined in his criticism of the United States-brokered agreement – which will see Israel suspend a controversial plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank in return for full diplomatic ties with the UAE – by Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, which said the deal could trigger terror attacks in the Southeast Asian nation and the Middle East.
Mahathir, a long-time defender of the Palestinians, who are locked in a decades-old conflict with Israelis, told This Week in Asia the agreement would “divide the Muslim world into warring factions and in this, the Israelis will add fuel to the fire”.
“They will increase the ability of the contestants to fight each other and there will be no peace even between Muslim countries,” said Mahathir, 95, who had two stints as the premier of the Muslim-majority nation, his most recent one ending earlier this year.
“It bolsters the stand taken by Israel that Palestine belongs to Israel. Of course there will be a reaction from the Palestinians and those who are sympathetic towards the Palestinians. This will mean prolonging the war in the Middle East,” he said.
Neither the Indonesian nor the Malaysian government have officially responded to the UAE-Israel accord.
The agreement saw Israel pledge to suspend its annexation of Palestinian land, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that did not mean it was abandoning plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements across the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians, Turkey and Iran have decried it as a “betrayal”, while the UAE defended it as an initiative that gave more time for a peace agreement to be reached.
Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, called the deal “a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a desperate attempt to negatively affect the resistance path aiming to defeat the Israeli occupation and restore Palestinian rights”.
In Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama – which claims more than 60 million followers – warned that Islamic radical groups “clearly hate this agreement”.
“[These groups] may be provoked to launch terror attacks in Muslim countries, especially the Middle East,” said secretary general Yahya Staquf, a Muslim cleric.
In March 1979, Egypt’s then president Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel after fighting four wars with its neighbour, with terms including the normalisation of relations and the full withdrawal of Israeli troops and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which had been captured from Egypt in 1967.
In October 1981, Islamic extremists, angered by the treaty, assassinated Sadat at a military victory parade in Cairo.
Staquf said the UAE appeared to be “sufficiently protected” from terror attacks, more so if it had the security backing of the US and Israel.
The two-time prime minister, a long-time defender of the Palestinians, has criticised the agreement as a step backwards for peace, while Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation warns it could trigger terror attacks.
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