The United Arab Emirates has warned the White House that an Israeli move to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank will severely impair Gulf states’ cooperation with the Trump administration’s peace plan and will end all efforts at public rapprochement with Israel, Channel 12 reported Saturday.
UAE diplomats conveyed the message to Washington at the same time as a top diplomat for the country published an unprecedented op-ed in a leading Israeli newspaper, warning against the push to apply sovereignty to settlements and the Jordan Valley, the report said.
Abu Dhabi was said to warn that an American green-light for annexation would severely curtail Gulf states’ support for the plan, and lead them to take a step back from the US efforts.
In addition, it said such a step would end all efforts to bring Israel and the Gulf States publicly closer together, including efforts that were discussed to sign non-aggression pacts.
The network also reported that with two weeks left until Netanyahu’s July 1 target date to start the ball rolling on annexation, defense officials have not seen any maps or been given a timetable.
Deprived of information, the military is preparing for several scenarios — including a terror wave and a new Palestinian popular uprising — and is stocking up on less-lethal weapons, expecting widespread unrest if the plan is carried out.
In a piece printed in Hebrew for Yedioth Ahronoth Friday, UAE Minister of State Yousef Al-Otaiba, who is also the country’s ambassador to the US, acknowledged that Israel and much of the Arab world have grown closer in recent years and expressed hope that such cooperation in a range wide of areas would deepen in the future.
However, he noted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation plan would bury such dreams.
“A unilateral and deliberate act, annexation is the illegal seizure of Palestinian land. It defies the Arab — and indeed the international — consensus on the Palestinian right to self-determination. It 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.”
Al-Otaiba was one of the three Arab ambassadors to attend the White House ceremony during which US President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan for the Middle East.
His country has long “promoted engagement and conflict reduction, helped to create incentives — carrots rather than sticks — and focused attention on the collective benefits for all parties,” he wrote. For instance, Abu Dhabi has listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and condemned Hamas, he explained.
“We have conducted quiet diplomacy and sent very public signals to help shift the dynamics and promote the possible,” he went on.
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,” the senior diplomat stressed.
In a video interview in English with The National, a UAE-based English-language newspaper, Al-Otaiba explained why he thought it was important to write an op-ed for an Israeli paper.
“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,” he added. “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.”