In a striking break with traditional policies in the Arab world, a prominent security leader in the United Arab Emirates called for Arab states to join a security coalition with Israel and said he does not support the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, deputy head of Dubai Police and General Security, made the statements on Twitter this week, flouting a long-standing Arab taboo on speaking positively about Israel and accepting the possible failure of an independent Palestinian state.
He urged his followers not to “treat Jews as enemies,” but when he then posed a series of questions about Jews to his 1.3 million Twitter followers, their overwhelmingly negative responses indicated that most do not share his sentiments.
“America is trying to get closer to Israel…the entire world is…Rapprochement will solve problems. Why shouldn’t we have a coalition with the Jews against the enemies of the Middle East,” wrote Tamim to his Twitter followers.
Though he did not specify who he meant by the “enemies of the Middle East,” he was likely referring to Iran.
In a later tweet, Tamim accused the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of “trading in the Palestinian cause.”
Tamim’s rhetoric of rapprochement comes as Israel and Sunni Arab states have increasingly seen their interests dovetail in opposing Iran’s growing regional influence after the nuclear deal, though leaders of Arab states have generally tried to keep any contacts with the Jewish state secret.
Israeli leaders, for their part, have been open in saying that the time has come to strengthen Arab diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Both opposition leader Isaac Herzog and US Vice President Joe Biden spoke about increasing mutual interests between Israel and the Arab world in their speeches at the AIPAC conference in Washington this week.
And last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Arab states to bring their relations with the Jewish state into the open. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon followed the prime minister’s remarks by saying that Israel has “covert ties” with Arab states, specifying that he meant not just Jordan and Egypt, with whom Israel has peace treaties, but Gulf states and North African states as well.
Though Tamim may have called for openness toward Israel, he has come into conflict with the Jewish state in the past.
The former Dubai police chief is credited with discovering and publishing the identities of Mossad operatives allegedly behind the 2010 assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
Writing last May in al Araby al Jaded, an important London-based Arabic news site, Alain Gresh said that “Tamim does not fear controversy and avoids doublespeak.”
“Should we believe him?” asked Gresh. “In any case, nobody appears able to prevent him from speaking his mind. Frankly, it’s a rare quality in a region where leaders do not usually confide in the media.”
‘There shouldn’t be a Palestinian state’
Tamim opened his long series of tweets about Israeli-Arab relations this week by calling for an end to the idea of an independent Palestinian state.
“I suggest that there shouldn’t be a Palestinian state and to be satisfied with an Israeli state that encompasses both Arabs and Jews,” Tamim wrote.
But he did not foresee perpetual governance over the Palestinians by the binational state’s Jewish citizens. Tamim argued, instead, that in 70 years Arabs would comprise 75 percent of the population. This would allow Arabs to eventually take over the government as the majority, similar to what happened in South Africa, he wrote.
However, he indicated, the demographic future he predicts for the one state is not a way to undermine Israel, but a real chance at coexistence. “This is how we will live in lasting peace with the Jews,” he wrote.
Tamim entreated his followers on Twitter “not to treat Jews as enemies, rather as cousins with conflict over land inheritance.” The eventual Palestinian-governed binational state, wrote Tamim, would be able to join the Arab League.
By merging the Jews and Arabs into one state, Tamim posited, the prospect of another failed Arab state could be avoided.
“If the leadership of the Palestinian state will be managed by Arabs, it will be another failed state,” he warned.
The Emirati security chief also seemed to suggest that combining with the Jews would be a wise move due to Jews’ ostensible economic prowess.
“If not for the Jews,” he wrote, “you [Arabs] would not know how to deposit your money in the bank,” he tweeted, adding “the Jews are the backbone of the world economy today.”
While calling for more open ties with Israel, Tamim also attacked insincerity among Arabs about their support for the Palestinian cause.
“We have had enough of the talk that Palestine is the number one cause; it has become the last cause. Some people have forgotten who Abu Ammar is,” he wrote, referring to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by his nickname.
Twitter polls show followers hostile to Jews
During his extensive tweeting about the Israeli-Arab conflict, which began Monday and continued through Wednesday, Tamim published a number of questionnaires for his numerous followers to vote on, with largely negative responses regarding Jews.
In his earliest survey, Tamim asked, “The Jews have lived for many years in Arab lands. Is it permissible for them to live as citizens in our countries and we will live in their country as citizens?”
After 19,628 votes, 22% percent said it is permissible, 17% said it is not and 61% percent said that Jews “do not have a place with us.”
In another survey, with 10,518 responses, Tamim asked his followers what they envision for the future regarding the Jews. The large majority (67%) voted “we will throw them into the sea,” 19% said they could envision two states and 14% voted for “we will live with them in one state.”