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UAE makes 'goodwill gesture' towards far right Israeli politician

The flags of the UAE and Israel fly at the Expo 2020 Dubai in the gulf emirate on 31 January 2022. [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]
The flags of the UAE and Israel fly at the Expo 2020 Dubai in the gulf emirate on 31 January 2022. [KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images]

It has been said that last week's invitation by the United Arab Emirates to far-right Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir should be seen as a "goodwill gesture". Israel's incoming national security minister was invited to a reception in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv, to mark the 51st anniversary of the unification of the seven emirates which make up the UAE despite having raised concerns earlier over Ben-Gvir's inclusion in the new Israeli government coalition.

Ben-Gvir was seen shaking hands with the UAE Ambassador during the reception, which was also attended by incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the event, the 46-year-old, who is a strong advocate of illegal Israeli settlements, gibed about having made peace with Arab states without making any concessions.

"Peace without concessions" is a favourite line within the Israeli right. For decades, right-wingers have rejected peace offers, such as the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offered normalisation for an end to the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State. Israeli leaders from every major political party have rejected this offer and demanded peace on their terms. The so-called Abraham Accords are still seen as a victory for Israeli intransigence.

There has been speculation over Ben-Gvir's appearance at the reception, especially as Abu Dhabi's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, had personally raised his concern with Netanyahu over the inclusion of the far-right in his coalition. Ensuring that Ben-Gvir and the extreme right and pro-settler parties, including Religious Zionism, do not present a threat to the accords is a major concern for the UAE.

The Gulf state had defended its decision to normalise relations with the occupation state by insisting that it had prevented Israel from annexing the West Bank, a threat which Netanyahu, who was the Prime Minister at the time, had issued. Indications are that the new Israeli government will push ahead with annexation, which is illegal under international law.

According to an anonymous Jordanian official, the invitation to Ben-Gvir should be seen within the context of preserving the Abraham Accords and a desire to influence the actions of the new far-right Israeli government. "It's clear to all of us that the new government holds a cluster of threats that could spark violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and from there to the entire region," the official is quoted as saying by Haaretz. He explained that the invitation should be seen "as a goodwill gesture to [Israel's] most extreme representative… Instead of warning and threatening, Abu Dhabi is using 'positive diplomacy'."

Another source mentioned in Haaretz argued that the accords had created dependency on the Gulf State and the meeting with Ben-Gvir was a reminder to the far-right politician about the basis of the relationship between the Israel and the UAE, and that the occupation state has a lot to lose.

READ: Israel far-right politician gibes 'peace without concession' in meeting with UAE Ambassador

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