United Arab Emirates warns Israelis over annexation fallout

Gulf state’s ambassador to the U.S. writes an unprecedented op-ed in an Israeli newspaper and posts a video warning Israelis over ‘annexation or normalization’ with the Arab world.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A senior diplomat from the United Arab Emirates wrote an unprecedented op-ed in a Hebrew language newspaper Friday, warning Israelis that annexation could undermine the progress Israel has made in normalizing relations with the Arab world.

In the article carried by the Yediot Ahronot newspaper and posted on it’s Ynet news website, UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, spoke to Israelis saying the planned annexation of settlements threatened the chances of Israel establishing stronger ties with the Arab world.

Al-Otaiba, also a Minister of State in the UAE, made it clear he was speaking on behalf of his government when he highlighted the risks to regional stability and could ruin the relations already built with with Arab states if the government pressed ahead with a plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements.

We wanted to speak directly to the Israelis,” Al-Otaiba said in the video, speaking in perfectly unaccented American English.

“The message was, all the progress that you’ve seen, and the attitudes that have been changing towards Israel, people becoming more accepting of Israel and less hostile to Israel – all of that could be undermined by a decision to annex.”

Al-Otaiba wrote in the op-ed that if Israel went ahead with the move, the results would most likely be swift and negative.

“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE.”

Over the past years Israel’s unofficial ties with several Arab countries, especially the UAE, have improved significantly and Israelis are allowed to travel there unhindered. A Jewish community has started to flourish in Dubai with a synagogue and community rabbi. The UAE Jewish community recently posted a video with the Hebrew prayer for the welfare of UAE’s leaders and armed forces.

Despite the lack of diplomatic relations, the warming ties were also highlighted by two cargo flights from UAE’s Emirates Airlines that recently landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport carrying medical supplies for Palestinians to fight the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first time the Arab airline had flown publicly to Israel and both sides emphasized the significance.

However, Al-Otaiba made it clear that annexation would most likely bring an end to normalization with the Arabs.

“Normal is not annexation. Instead, annexation is a misguided provocation of another order. And continued talk of normalization would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states.”

The ambassador said the UAE remained committed to a comprehensive, two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, saying “we remain an ardent advocate for the Palestinian people and a long-time champion of the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Al-Otaiba told the UAE newspaper the National he thought it was “important to speak directly to the Israeli public.”

“I don’t want there to be any confusion on what our position is. I think it’s important to be public, to be vocal, clear and direct.”

Al-Otaiba also hinted that the fallout from annexation could also land on Arab streets.

“Sometimes we don’t think of the secondary or tertiary consequences, how other countries or certain platforms will react, or what could happen on a street in a country far away from Israel. And I wanted to make sure that’s part of the conversation with the Israeli public.”