The Emirati ambassador to Washington warned Friday that annexation by the Jewish state of parts of the West Bank would jeopardise any warming of Arab-Israeli ties.
“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with the UAE,” Yousef al-Otaiba wrote in a rare op-ed by an Emirati official in Israel’s top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.
Israel’s annexation of West Bank part of ‘peace plan’ with US
“Recently, Israeli leaders have promoted excited talk about normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states. But Israeli plans for annexation and talk of normalisation are a contradiction,” he added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel in May for talks on regional security and the country’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Their coalition agreement says the Israeli government can from July 1 begin considering implementing the West Bank annexations detailed in President Donald Trump’s Middle East January peace plan.
“I think the Trump administration very much wants this annexation to happen,” said Shapiro, a visiting fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.
“It is probably less concerned about the specific boundaries, but it wants to have an achievement in Israeli annexation that it can tout to President Trump’s evangelical supporters (and) right-wing Jewish supporters to excite them and energise them,” ahead of US elections in November, Shapiro said.
Israel and Palestine have been in conflict for decades over various political issues such as borders, refugees and the control of Jerusalem. Under Trump’s new plan, Jerusalem will remain as Israel’s capital but it has been rejected by Palestinian leaders.
The plan — rejected wholesale by the Palestinians — gave the green light for Israel to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, Palestinian territory occupied by the Jewish state since 1967.
Palestinian officials cut diplomatic ties with Washington in 2017 after President Donald Trump recognised the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Otaiba said his country “has been an unfailing supporter of Middle East peace” and that “annexation is the illegal seizure of Palestinian land”.
It could “ignite violence and rouse extremists”, he warned.
UAE condemns Israel’s annexation of West Bank
The move has drawn international condemnation and the Palestinians are trying to mobilise support, particularly in Europe, to pressure Israel to abandon the annexation project.
Arab states have long seen a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as their condition for normalisation of relations with Israel. But Gulf Arab nations like the United Arab Emirates have been warming to the Jewish state amid shared concerns over Iran.
Very noteworthy: UAE Amb to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba publishes an op-ed in Hebrew in mass daily Yediot Ahronot. Communicating directly with the Israeli public on the damage unilateral annexation would do to prospects for normalization with Arab states.https://t.co/sJIRjQedQp
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) June 12, 2020
“The UAE has encouraged Israelis to think about the upside of more open and normal links,” Otaiba wrote.
He noted that he was one of three Arab ambassadors present in the White House at the announcement of Trump’s plan.
“And we have done the same among Emiratis and with Arabs more broadly,” he said.
On Tuesday, a flight of Etihad Airways — the UAE’s flag carrier — carrying medical supplies for the Palestinians to help fight the novel coronavirus touched down in Tel Aviv.
But the aid was refused by the Palestinians as the UAE had coordinated with Israel rather than with the Palestinian Authority.
While a similar May 19 Etihad flight to Tel Aviv was unmarked, Tuesday’s was the first time the airline landed in Israel with its logo, a source with knowledge of the flights told AFP.
Otaiba said the UAE and other Arab states “would like to believe Israel is an opportunity, not an enemy. We face too many common dangers and see the great potential of warmer ties.
“Israel’s decision on annexation will be an unmistakable signal of whether it sees it the same way.”
The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, tweeted Friday that Abu Dhabi was using “all possible diplomatic means” to oppose annexation which it saw as a threat to the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process and stability of the region”.
International reaction to Israel’s decision
Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel.
The plan is also controversial for its inclusion of the Jordan Valley in the proposed territory to be annexed, which may lead Israel into direct conflict with Jordan.
It will see Israel gaining a large amount of territory, at the expense of Palestine and neighbouring Jordan.
MPs in the UK also rose up against Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.
Over 100 British MPs and public figures call for the UK government and all political parties to sanction Israel over unilateral annexation of the Palestinian West Bank. #StopAnnexation #NoToAnnexWestBank pic.twitter.com/lL3RF1eopl
— AbdelKarim (@Kari2023m) June 12, 2020
Russia in March strongly condemned Israel’s plans to build new settlements in the occupied West Bank.
At a news conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Israel’s plans for new settlements “clearly” violate international law.
“The plans [for new settlements in the occupied West Bank] … clearly contradict the international legal basis for the Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Their implementation will make impossible the territorial continuity of this zone, which is an essential condition for the viability of a future Palestinian state,” she said.
Zakharova called the construction work on occupied Palestinian territory “one of the main obstacles” for relaunching direct Israeli-Palestinian talks and stressed that Israel’s actions have no legal basis.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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