UAE Ambassador to U.S. Addresses Israeli Public, Warns Annexation Risks Ties With Arab Countries

Yousef al Otaiba made the unusual step of publishing an op-ed in Hebrew in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, in a bid to 'speak directly to an audience'

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U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2019.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., March 29, 2019.Credit: Michael Gross/Wikimedia Commons

The United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba directly addressed the Israeli public on Friday and warned that Israeli annexation of the West Bank would undermined the progress made in Israel's ties with the Arab world, the National reported.

In an article published in Hebrew by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday, Al Otaiba pointed out the possible risk annexation would pose to Israel's warming ties with other Middle Eastern countries and it's affect on the stability of the region.

“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE,” wrote Al Otaiba.

In a separate video message to The National, Al Otaiba said that "the attitudes that have been changing toward Israel, people becoming more accepting and less hostile to Israel" could be undermined if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government goes forth with its plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and illegal settlements across the West Bank.

Al Otaiba reaffirmed that the UAE stood firmly behind a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. "We remain an ardent advocate for the Palestinian people and a long-time champion of the Arab Peace Initiative."

"This is supposed to be part of a negotiation, part of a two-state solution, and by moving unilaterally you’re basically saying I don’t believe in the negotiation or the two-state solution, or I am doing something to undermine it," Al Otaiba added.

His decision to reach out to the Israeli public through an op-ed published in Hebrew for the largest Israeli newspaper by circulation, Al Otaiba admits, is a controversial one. However, using late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit to Jerusalem as an example, he explains that "speaking directly to an audience" will assure that "your message gets across to them."

Referencing the direct Etihad flight that landed in Israel from Abu Dhabi last month and an Israeli athlete's particpation in competitions in the UAE, Al Otaiba said that such developments between the two countries will be made more difficult if annexation goes through.

Al Otaiba highlighted Jordan specifically when writing about the consequences of Israeli annexation on its ties with Arab states. “It will send shockwaves around the region, especially in Jordan whose stability – often taken for granted – benefits the entire region, particularly Israel ... There could be unrest. A decision like this could have as much impact on Jordan as Palestine and Ramallah."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat reacted to the article on Twitter, writing that "Israel extends its hand in peace to all its neighbors since its founding. Peace is a tremendous opportunity to the entire Middle East, and [has] enormous potential for all of us. The American peace plan is a true starting point to march toward this vision together."

Israel and the United Arab Emirates do not have formal diplomatic relations, but there are many clandestine contacts between the two countries, as well as the occasional public visit by Israeli officials. Israel has official representation at a United Nations organization in Abu Dhabi, and this year Israel was also invited to participate in Dubai’s Expo world fair.

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