The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will establish an embassy in Tel Aviv, its Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said Thursday at a video conference with US-based Atlantic Council think-tank.
Gargash said when a normalization agreement with Israel is signed that was announced last week, “Abu Dhabi will have its embassy in Tel Aviv based on international consensus to a two-state solution.”
What does the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv mean?
The agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates promises to establish normal relations between the two countries. These include business relations, tourism, direct flights, scientific cooperation, and, in time, full diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level. The Emiratis are unlikely, however, to locate their embassy in Jerusalem.
An important component of the Abraham Accord, though not specifically spelt out, is enhanced security cooperation against regional threats, especially from Iran and its proxies. It is important to note that Israel and the UAE reportedly already have security ties, but the agreement brings them into the open.
According to the Emirati government, the accord “immediately stops” Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank and provides an opportunity for Israel and the Palestinians to renew negotiations to end their conflict. Israeli officials use the word “suspend.”
The difference in language represents the politics that each country’s leader confronts. In the case of the UAE, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed clearly felt compelled to demonstrate that normal relations with the UAE were not cost-free for the Israelis. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, use of the term “suspend” is an effort to mollify pro-annexation political groups and factions, which have already criticized the agreement.
Israel and the UAE have been inching toward normalization in recent years. In 2015, Israel opened a diplomatic office in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi tied to the International Renewable Energy Agency; senior Israeli officials have visited Abu Dhabi; Israeli athletes have participated in regional competitions in the UAE; and Israel is set to participate in Dubai’s World Expo 2020, which is now scheduled to open in October 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Significant momentum for an agreement began when Israel did not begin the process of annexing West Bank territory on July 1 as Netanyahu had indicated.
The Emiratis reportedly took the opportunity to promise full normalization of relations if annexation was taken off the table. This was the subtext of an op-ed that the Emirati ambassador to the United Sates published in Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, in June.
Sympathizing with the strong Israeli desire to widen the country’s formal diplomatic relations with Arab nations in the Persian Gulf and seizing upon the Emirati signaling, the Donald J. Trump administration oversaw the three-way diplomacy that resulted in the Abraham Accord.
How might this affect Israeli-Palestinian relations and, the region?
Despite the apparent Israeli promise of halting annexation, the Palestinian leadership rejected the accord and recalled its ambassador from Abu Dhabi. From the perspective of the Palestinians and their supporters, the agreement reflects bad faith on the part of Israel, the UAE, and the United States, since the Israelis and Emiratis had been normalizing ties even before the Abraham Accord.
This criticism is not unwarranted. Israel has demonstrated little interest in negotiations with the Palestinians as it has tightened its grip on the West Bank and, along with Egypt, maintains a tight cordon around the Gaza Strip.
The Trump administration has moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ended or significantly curtailed aid to Palestinians, and produced a peace plan that Palestinians regard as grossly unfair to their national aspirations and rights.
At the same time, leaders in Ramallah regard the ongoing normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE as an indication that Abu Dhabi has betrayed the Palestinian cause.
For their part, the Emiratis do not want to subordinate their national interests to an ineffectual and corrupt Palestinian leadership. All of this suggests that, in the short run, any expectation of new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is misplaced.
Read more: UAE-Israel deal had been brewing since 2006
“The UAE embassy will be in Tel Aviv. This is very clear,” he said.
Asked about achievements reached in the deal, he said: “The most concrete achievement was to stop the annexation of Palestinian lands” and reiterated UAE’s commitment to a two-state solution.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has said he agreed to delay annexation in the occupied West Bank as part of a normalisation deal, but the plans remain “on the table”.
AP ANALYSIS: A U.S.-brokered deal that saw Israel and the United Arab Emirates begin to open diplomatic ties may end up with Abu Dhabi purchasing American weaponry. President Trump said a deal to sell F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE is "under review." https://t.co/wCDBO1NBL3
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 20, 2020
The agreement has long-term gains, said Gargash, and “certainly, this step will create opportunities. Our economy is bigger than Israel’s. Israel has great opportunities here [in the UAE].” F-35 purchase request He said the deal also paves the way to purchase F-35 fighter jets from the US that the UAE had clearly requested to buy.
“Our first request was six years ago. This is something that happened on the table. Our legal request is on the table,” he said, asserting that the request has nothing to do with the deal.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk