'Israel an opportunity, not an enemy': UAE official bemoans Netanyahu's annexation plans in Hebrew op-ed

'Israel an opportunity, not an enemy': UAE official bemoans Netanyahu's annexation plans in Hebrew op-ed
In an op-ed published by Israel's top newspaper, the UAE's ambassador to the US said Israel cannot expect normalisation with Arab states while proceeding with annexation plans.
2 min read
12 June, 2020
People gather in Tel Aviv, Israel for a protest against Israeli annexation plans [Getty]
Israel's plans to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territories would sever any prospects of normalisation with Arab countries, the UAE's ambassador to the US wrote in Israel's top newspaper on Friday.

In an op-ed published in Hebrew by Yedioth Ahronoth - Israel's best-selling daily newspaper - ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba said annexation would "certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE".

Al-Otaiba, who has close ties to the Israeli ambassador in Washington D.C. Ron Dermer, was one of the few Arab diplomats present for US President Donald Trump's January unveiling of his so-called "Deal of the Century", which greenlighted Israel's annexation plans.

After the announcement, the Al-Otaiba praised Trump's plan as "an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a US-led international framework".

The UAE and Israel currently enjoy warm relations against the backdrop of their joint rivalry with Iran and hostility to Islamist groups in the region. UAE-flagged aircraft now fly directly to Israel, despite strong opposition from Palestinians and Arabs.

In his op-ed, however, the Emirati diplomat states Israel cannot expect normalisation with Arab states if it chooses to move forward with annexation, which he says is "illegal" and violates Palestinian sovereignety.

Al-Otaiba added annexation will "ignite violence and rouse extremists", as well as "harden Arab views of Israel" just when the UAE has paved the way for warmer relations.

"In the UAE and across much of the Arab world, we would like to believe Israel is an opportunity, not an enemy," he wrote. "We face too many common dangers and see the great potential of warmer ties."

Though Al-Otaiba's op-ed is a rare appeal from an Arab official to the Israeli public, he is not the first to publicly condemn Israel's annexation plans.

Jordan, one of two Arab states to have a formal peace treaty with Israel, has threatened to review its ties with the Jewish state, should it proceed with annexation. Jordan's King Abdullah II also warned of a "massive conflict" between both countries.

Israel's allies in Europe have also urged Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt annexation plans.

Israel could begin implementing annexations as soon as 1 July.

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