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Gulf state diplomat publicly appeals to Israel against annexation

In a first, a senior ambassador from the United Arab Emirates appealed directly to Israelis in an op-ed published in an Israeli newspaper on Friday, stating that Israel’s unilateral annexation of the West Bank could reverse years of progress and normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world.

Minister of State Yousef Al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the U.S., wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth about the potential losses and destabilization that annexation could cause.

“We have conducted quiet diplomacy and sent very public signals to help shift the dynamics and promote the possible,” he wrote. However, an Israeli annexation “will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE.”

“Recently, Israeli leaders have promoted excited talk about normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states. But Israeli plans for annexation and talk of normalization are a contradiction,” he wrote.

Annexation “will ignite violence and rouse extremists. It will send shockwaves around the region, especially in Jordan, whose stability — often taken for granted — benefits the entire region, particularly Israel.”

Much of the Arab world “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. Israel’s decision on annexation will be an unmistakable signal of whether it sees it the same way.”

“I don’t want there to be any confusion on what our position is. I think it’s important to be public, to be vocal, clear and direct,” Al-Otaiba explained in an interview with The National, an UAE-based English-language newspaper. “All the progress and the attitude shift that you have seen, people being less hostile to Israel, all of that could be undermined by the decision to annex. All the progress, and the exchanges and the openings could be undermined by one simple step.”

Joel Rosenberg, author and Israeli-American citizen, also questioned whether Israel should rush toward annexation at the expense of such historic strides it has made with neighboring Muslim nations.

“Should our new unity government move quickly to apply Israeli sovereignty … Or should we defer discussions of unilateral annexation for the time being and place a higher priority on establishing full peace treaties with Gulf Arab states that are steadily warming towards normalization?” he asked in a Jerusalem Post opinion piece. “Put another away: Do we want the settlements now, or peace with the Saudis?”

But in what some call a contradiction to Al-Otaiba’s piece, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Tuesday called for increased cooperation with Israel. Gargash said his country wanted to separate disagreements over the Palestinian issue from the mutual benefits of cooperation in other fields.

“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 said during an interview for the American Jewish Committee Virtual Global Forum. “I think we can come to a point where we come to a given Israeli government… and say, we disagree with you on this [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.”

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