Two classified documents have revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) played a key role in urging Yemen to formally normalise relations with Israel 16 years ago.
The first document issued on 3 March, 2004, was a letter sent from the Emirati Ambassador to Yemen at the time Hamad Saeed Al-Zaabi, to the UAE under-secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The letter stated that a delegation from the Jewish Heritage Authority had recently visited Yemen and met with several officials including President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported.
According to the pro-Hezbollah newspaper, the delegation included Israeli Yahya Marji and Ibrahim Yahya Yacoub, a US citizen, as part of Zionist efforts to normalise relations between the Jewish state and Yemen.
The delegation made several requests to Yemeni officials, including the construction of a museum of Jewish heritage in Sanaa and fencing the tomb of Al-Shabazi (one of the rabbis of the Jews of Taiz) and the Jewish cemeteries in Aden, Rada'a and the different regions where Jews lived. Requests were also made to grant naturalisation to 45,000 Israeli Jews and 15,000 Jewish Americans, and to build a temple and a Jewish school in Raydah.
According to the Emirati ambassador: "The Jewish Heritage Authority sent a letter to the Yemeni prime minister to request the construction of the museum, while outlining the importance and reasons behind the request."
The Jewish delegation also met the Yemeni Deputy Minister of the Interior Major General Mutahar Al-Masri, who received the authority representatives warmly and seemed to already know them.
The same source disclosed that Al-Masri claimed at the time that: "He had visited Israel earlier according to previous arrangements with the relevant parties."
The delegation held a meeting with Brigadier General Ali Mohsin Al-Ahmar, commander of the north-western military district, during which Marji asked him to grant his wife and children, who live in Israel, Yemeni citizenship.
The document stated that Al-Zaabi intended to inform the UAE official about Sanaa's expected role in the Yemeni-Jewish normalisation, which is part of a broader US plan for the region.