UAE considering downgrading relations with Israel – report

Jordan, Egypt and Morocco are thinking of doing the same after Smotrich denied the existence of a Palestinian people, the report said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The United Arab Emirates is considering downgrading its diplomatic relations with Israel due to anger over Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s recent statement denying the existence of a Palestinian people, the Arabic online newspaper Elaph reported.

The UAE Foreign Ministry has instructed its ambassador in Tel Aviv, Mohamed Al Khaja, not to meet with any Israeli official  at this stage and not to participate in official ceremonies attended by Israeli ministers or MKs, the London-based media outlet said.

In paying tribute Monday to Jacques Kupfer, a Likud activist who died two years ago, Smotrich told an audience in France: “Jacques’ truth must be told with all our might and without confusion: He said there is no such thing as Palestinians—because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”

During the British Mandate, the Palestinian identity was applied to Jews who lived in pre-state Israel before 1948, while the Muslims who lived there considered themselves part of the general Arab nation. Palestinian Arab nationalism was a concept invented by the Palestine Liberation Organization when it was founded in 1964.

According to Elaph, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco are considering similar steps due to Smotrich’s right-wing views.

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“A source in the Jordanian royal court told the media that the kingdom is in the process of withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv, and is trying to coordinate with Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco to take similar steps collectively, to put pressure on the Israeli government to stop harming the Palestinians and flouting stability” in the region, due to what the source called “the racist statements” of Smotrich and other ministers in Jerusalem, the outlet reported.

Ten days ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied, through his office, a Channel 12 report that there was a “crisis” in UAE-Israel relations and that Abu Dhabi was preparing to stop a planned purchase of Israeli defense systems.  The news station quoted UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed as telling Israeli officials that “until we can be sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu has a government he can control, we will not be able to jointly operate.”

“The news is without any basis, Israel and the UAE maintain fruitful political relations in all fields, including today,” the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

Elaph cited an unnamed Israeli source who said that Abu Dhabi is continuing to reject Netanyahu’s request to make an official visit Abu Dhabi. The government had canceled a previously scheduled visit following National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s ascent to the Temple Mount immediately the new government was formed.

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The reported friction stands in sharp contrast to the atmosphere in December, when Ambassador Al Khaja met with Smotrich in the soon-to-be minister’s Knesset office, where they discussed bilateral ties and the extension of the Abraham Accords to other Arab countries – although Abu Dhabi had reportedly protested the inclusion of “extremists” in the new coalition.

The ambassador had also invited Ben-Gvir along with other government officials to celebrate his country’s National Day the previous week and was pictured warmly shaking his hand.