Jun 12, 2020 - World

UAE sends direct message to Israeli public against West Bank annexation

Yousef Al-Otaiba, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, stressed in an op-ed published in an Israeli newspaper that Israeli annexation in the West Bank will destroy all efforts to achieve normalization between Israel and the Arab world — mainly the Gulf states.

Why it matters: The op-ed was an unprecedented message from a senior official in the UAE to Israeli public opinion through the Israeli press. Yediot Ahronot is a mainstream newspaper with the largest circulation in the country which speaks to a center-right audience.

  • Al-Otaiba wrote in the last few years a lot of progress have been made in getting Israel and the Gulf states closer together due to shared interests and less hostility towards Israel in public opinion.
  • “Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE… Normal is not annexation. Instead, annexation is a misguided provocation of another order. And continued talk of normalisation would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states."

The big picture: Al-Otaiba published the article as part of a wider diplomatic campaign by the UAE against Israeli annexation. The campaign included private messages to both the White House and the Israeli government warning of the consequences of annexation and public messages — the latest one in the Israeli newspaper.

  • In an interview with the Emirati newspaper “The National,” Al-Otaiba explained the op-ed in the Israeli newspaper was inspired by Egyptian president Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem in 1977.
  • “He did that to make a point because it was in the interest of his country. While I am not going to Tel Aviv to give a speech I think this has the same kind of value of speaking directly to an audience to make sure your message gets across."

The bottom line: “We wanted to speak directly to the Israelis. The message was all the progress that you have seen and the attitudes that have been changing towards Israel – people becoming more accepting of Israel and less hostile – all of that could be undermined by a decision to annex the West Bank."

  • I wanted to make sure people understood how we see this possibility and the risks associated with it. There’s opportunity for sure – but this could be a set back for all of those things."
Go deeper