Yousef Otaiba, UAE Minister of State and ambassador to the US, warned that Israel’s annexation of “Palestinian land” on the West Bank would be a major impediment to ties with the Arab world. This first direct Arab appeal to the Israeli public came in an op-ed he contributed to the Hebrew tabloid Yediot Aharonot’s Friday edition.
“Normal is not annexation,” he insisted and the “planned annexation of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley would certainly and immediately upend Israel’s aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and the UAE.” He added: “It will send shock waves around the region, especially in Jordan whose stability – often taken for granted – benefits the entire region, particularly Israel.”
The UAE has been an unfailing supporter of Middle East peace, the UAE envoy noted while “consistently and actively opposed to violence on all sides: we designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization, condemned Hamas incitement and denounced Israeli provocations.”
While ardently advocating “a comprehensive, two-state solution of the conflict with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state,” Otaiba added that Israelis and Arabs were at the same time encouraged to think of the upside of more open and normal links. “Israel has been invited to participate in Dubai’s World Expo planned for next year. Israeli diplomats have an ongoing presence in Abu Dhabi at the headquarters of the UN International Renewable Energy Agency; Israeli athletes participate in competitions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; the Louvre Abu Dhabi prominently displays side-by-side a seventh-century Quran, a Gothic Bible, and a 15th-century Yemeni Torah in a permanent exhibit about universal religions and civilization. Just last month, a new kosher caterer launched in Dubai to serve the first new Jewish community in the Arab world in more than a century. All this will be made more difficult by annexation.