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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

Sep 16, 2020 - World

UAE-Israel treaty states commitment to meeting the needs of Israelis and Palestinians

U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd R), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd L), UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (R) and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani (L) attend a signing ceremony for the agreements on "normalization of relations" reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain at the White House in Washington, United States on September 15, 2020. Photo:
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates states that both countries are committed to "working together for a negotiated solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will meet the aspirations and needs of both parties."

Why it matters: The Emiratis face criticism from the Palestinians over their peace treaty with Israel. Officials involved in the negotiations on the text of the treaty told me the Emiratis wanted to include language on Palestinians in the document. The Emiratis wanted stronger language, but Israel did not agree.

Sep 15, 2020 - World

Kushner expects more countries to normalize with Israel before Palestinian deal

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told CNN on Tuesday that he expects more Arab countries to follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in normalizing relations with Israel before Palestinian leadership agrees to a peace deal.

Why it matters: After hosting a White House signing ceremony on Tuesday that formalized diplomatic ties between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, President Trump told reporters that he expects seven to nine more countries — including possibly Saudi Arabia — to agree to a similar move.

Sep 16, 2020 - Podcasts

A historic peace agreement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington on Tuesday to commemorate new peace accords with the UAE and Bahrain — the first Arab states in a quarter-century to normalize relations with Israel. The move could have major impacts on the future of the region, including possible compromises on relations with the Palestinians and annexation of the West Bank.