UAE could strengthen Israel ties even after West Bank annexation, says Gargash

UAE could strengthen Israel ties even after West Bank annexation, says Gargash
The UAE has close ties with Israel despite not officially recognising the country.
3 min read
17 June, 2020
Gargash is one of the UAE's most well-known figures [Getty]
One of the UAE's most senior diplomats has said that the Israeli annexation of huge parts of the West Bank would not affect relations between the countries, as anger mounts in the Arab world about the move.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, told the American Jewish Committee on Tuesday that the UAE is looking for greater cooperation with Israel, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing international criticism for the plans.

"Can I have a political disagreement with Israel but at the same time try and bridge other areas of the relationship? I think I can. I think that is fundamentally where we are," Gargash told the pro-Israel panel, according to Emirati and Israeli media.

He called for "open lines of communications" between the UAE and Israel and said he wanted increased cooperation on key issues such as technology.

Gargash said that although UAE was opposed to the planned annexation of the Palestinian territories in principle - a move that would effectively kill-off the two state solution - he ruled out any action against Israel.

"The UAE is clearly against any annexation as is being proposed by the current Israeli government. Having said that, that is the political domain," he said, according to Israeli media.

"Do I have to really look at all the other domains and make them almost static because of the political domain? We have tried that, as a group of Arab countries, over many years, and I don't think it has really led to what we want in terms of bringing stability to the region."

Gargash, one of the UAE's most important political figures, then pledged to strengthen ties even if Israel's annexation goes ahead.

"I think we can come to a point where we come to a given Israeli government… and say, we disagree with you [on the annexation], we don't think it's a good idea, but at the same time there are areas - such a Covid, technology and other things - where we can actually work together," he said, according to The Times of Israel

The UAE does not officially recognise Israel, in-line with Arab League protocol, but in recent years has established strong ties with the county.

Gargash's comments come in stark contrast to those of UAE ambassador to the Youssef Al-Otaiba, who wrote in an op-ed for a Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper that the annexation would have dire consequences for UAE-Israeli ties.

"Annexation would - certainly and immediately - upend all Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and the UAE," he wrote in the op-ed, pleading with Israelis to reject the move.

Gargash has previously said a two-state solution would not be possible if Israel continued on its current path.

"What we are facing, if we continue on the current trajectory, I think the conversation in 15 years' time will really be about equal rights in one state," he said last year.

"A two-state solution will no longer be feasible because a sort of reduced rump (Palestinian) state will no longer be practical."

He also said it was "very, very wrong" that Arab states had not established ties with Israel.

Only Egypt and Jordan have official diplomatic ties with Israel, although Amman has been highly critical of Israel's plans to annex West Bank territories.

In a statement by Jordan's King Abdullah, he warned that "any unilateral Israeli measure to annex lands in the West Bank is unacceptable and undermines the prospects of achieving peace and stability in the region".

Jordan Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said last week that the annexation would result in a strong response from Amman, which some have suggested it could potentially end a peace deal with Israel.

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