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Annexation would destroy Israel-Arab normalisation efforts, warns UAE

UAE had played a key role in the Arab world’s recent embrace of Israel

Further unilateral Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory would destroy any hopes for rapprochement between the Zionist state and the Arab world, warned the UAE Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, in a first ever op-ed for an Israeli newspaper.

Writing in the largest Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, Al-Otaiba, who is also minister of state, acknowledged that the UAE had played a key role in the Arab world’s recent embrace of Israel but all that would be undone by Israel’s planned annexation in July.

“A unilateral and illegal seizure of Palestinian land defies the international consensus on the Palestinian right to self-determination,” said Al-Otaiba, while warning that it “will send shockwaves around the region, especially in Jordan, whose stability — often taken for granted — benefits the entire region, particularly Israel.”

In his piece, published today, Al-Otaiba, one of a few Arab leaders to support President Donald Trump’s ‘peace plan’, said that the UAE had long “promoted engagement and conflict reduction, helped to create incentives-carrots rather than sticks — and focused attention on the collective benefits for all parties.” He cited Abu Dhabi’s listing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation and condemnation of Hamas, to support his suggestion that the UAE had played a serious role in advancing peace.

READ: UAE calls on Israel to stop threatening to annex West Bank

“We have conducted quiet diplomacy and sent very public signals to help shift the dynamics and promote the possible,” he added before warning that further illegal takeover of Palestinian territory “will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE.”

Critics of the recent rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf state have warned of the dangers in seeking normalisation with the Zionist state before it agrees to end its occupation of Palestine and conform to international law. Palestinians view Israel’s normalisation within the Middle East as a reward for peace and agreeing to abide by international law to end the conflict. Offering normalisation without peace undermines this formula and sends a dangerous message, argue the Palestinians.

Al-Otaiba appeared to suggest that the UEA’s embrace of Israel in recent years may have been misguided. He explained that “normal” relations with Israel which Tel Aviv seeks does not include annexation. “Annexation is a misguided provocation of another order”, insisted Al-Otaiba, “and continued talk of normalization would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states”.

READ: Palestine rejects UAE aid delivered on first direct flight to Israel

“Annexation will also harden Arab views of Israel just when Emirati initiatives have been opening the space for cultural exchange and broader understanding of Israel and Judaism,” Al-Otaiba went on. “The UAE has encouraged Israelis to think about the upside of more open and normal links. And we have done the same among Emiratis and with Arabs more broadly.”

The past few weeks has seen world leaders universally condemning Israel’s annexation. US politicians took the unprecedented step of signalling that the two pillars of US relations with Israel; US security and bipartisan support Israel enjoys in Capitol Hill, would be jeopardised.

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