Attention UAE Leaders: Israel Is Advancing De Facto Annexation

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, speaks with the Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus in Abu Dhabi on January 13, 2019.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, speaks with the Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba at the NYU Abu Dhabi campus in Abu Dhabi on January 13, 2019. Credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The United Arab Emirates is not normalizing its relations with the Israel of the relaxed Tel Aviv atmosphere, with its bars and startups, with the normalcy the average Israeli attributes to his or her life in their sovereign country. The UAE is upgrading its relations with a state that refuses to shed its settler-colonial character, that on the contrary is constantly honing its skills at staying the course.

But why quibble about the UAE? This is what everyone else is doing. France, Britain, Germany, Norway, Canada, Australia, etc. etc. They denounce, they warn, they express their concern. That much is true. But every day their friendly relations, civilian and military trade with Israel, and scientific cooperation continue as usual, with no clear sanctions, with no steps taken to clarify to Israel that it’s abnormal to have under its boot a nation with no rights and with no end to this in sight. This is seen by Jerusalem as encouragement to continue unimpeded.

PODCAST: Inside Israel's no-change, no-cost peace deal with the UAE

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In contrast to an unelected ruler such as Mohammed bin Zayed, a prince who has become extremely powerful thanks to his family’s control over a rich resource, the heads of those Western countries see themselves as democratic and committed to human rights. They supported the Oslo Accords based on the belief it would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war. Officially they’re still sticking to that belief, but in practice their tolerance of Israel’s strategies and tactics to foil any option of a Palestinian state only encourages Tel Aviv to continue undermining it.

So there’s no official annexation. However, one should bring to the attention of Hend al-Otaiba, spokeswoman of the UAE Foreign Ministry, and Yousef al-Otaiba, the country’s ambassador to the U.S., who are so proud of their diplomatic achievement, that at any given moment Israel is advancing de facto annexation.

A section of Route 443 near Beit Hanina, an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

You didn’t know? When you come visiting, members of the Otaiba family, drive eastward towards the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). You’ll see that it’s hard to tell where sovereign Israel ends and where the West Bank begins. Route 443, the Shiloh valley, the western and eastern Etzion blocs, the “tunnel road,” the Binyamin district, the “sovereignty road,” the Jordan Valley, the Trans-Samaria highway, the Givat Ze’ev bloc, the Adumim bloc, the Talmonim bloc, the Gilo bloc, the Karnei Shomron bloc and its environs, the City of David, the Har Homa neighborhood, the seam line area, etc. etc. All of these are emblematic of the way Israel has encroached on Palestinian space that was intended to be part of their state under a peace agreement. All of these have become ever-expanding Israeli-Jewish areas – arrogant, imperious, enclosing Palestinian enclaves that are becoming less and less visible.

The official annexation was blocked, which is important, apparently more out of internal American considerations than of feelings of empathy held by Bin Zayed or Otaiba towards the fate of the Palestinians. The settlers are furious. Do they really believe their own whining propaganda, posing as victims in the face of Netanyahu’s relinquishing of formal annexation, or is this moaning and self-pity part of a calculated tactic?

I tend to believe the latter, but even if I’m wrong, the result is the same. The gradual steps of de facto annexation, some of them covertly galloping forward, some done openly, step by step and therefore hardly noticeable, are taking place incessantly.

It’s not only you – most Jewish Israelis live in peace with this situation. They continue to vote with their feet. The vast majority of Israelis are not moving to the colonies of Yeshastan, despite all the enticements and perks awaiting them there. But they’re also not joining the few Israeli Jews who are trying to stanch the flow by saving a Palestinian orchard, a house in a Jerusalem neighborhood or a Bedouin school. Israelis, including most of those now demonstrating on Balfour Street, will not lie under the wheels of trucks expelling Palestinians. They will come to you, to shop in Abu Dhabi.

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