Jun 12, 2020 - World

Billionaire Haim Saban advised UAE ambassador on Israeli annexation op-ed

Haim Saban speaks at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 1, 2018.
Haim Saban speaks onstage at Friends of The Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 1, 2018. Photo: Shahar Azran/Getty Images

Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban advised UAE ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba regarding his op-ed against Israeli annexation in the West Bank and assisted in publishing it in the Israeli press, Israeli sources told me.

Why it matters: Saban was one of Hillary Clinton’s main political backers and donors. He also has communication channels with President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner. Saban and Al-Otaiba have known each other for many years and became friends.

Israeli sources told me Al-Otaiba spoke to Saban 10 days ago and asked for his advice on the best way to reach Israeli public opinion and deliver a message against the Israeli government’s West Bank annexation plans. Saban told Al-Otaiba that any such message must be conveyed in Hebrew and through a big mainstream media outlet.

  • Saban brought in his communications adviser Moshe Debi who heads one of Israel’s biggest PR firms. Debi worked with the Emiratis in the choreography and timing of this move. He recommended that the op-ed would be published in Yediot Ahronot due to its wide circulation and the fact it is read by a center right audience.
  • The whole move was kept secret and other than the editor in chief very few people inside the Israeli newspaper knew of the upcoming op-ed.
  • Al-Otaiba gave the White House a heads up the day before the op-ed ran. Most of the arguments in the op-ed were already conveyed to the White House in the weeks before as part of the private conversation between the UAE and the Trump administration on the annexation issue.

What’s next: The UAE public push against Israeli annexation is expected to continue next week.

  • UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash will speak at the American Jewish Committee virtual conference next Tuesday.
  • He will be the most senior Arab official to speak at a public conference of a U.S Jewish organization.
  • He is expected to continue UAE's call for Israel not to annex the West Bank.
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