UAE ambassador to US warns Israel against annexation plans

UAE ambassador to US warns Israel against annexation plans
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A top Middle Eastern diplomat to the U.S. issued a stark warning to Israelis on Friday not to annex territory in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, a key part of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba published a video message in English and an op-ed in Hebrew warning against plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE to exercise control over Israeli communities in the area His remarks were first reported in The National, an English-language outlet based in Abu Dhabi. 

Al Otaiba, in his article published in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said such a move would undermine Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

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

The UAE and Israel share no formal relations, but a quiet partnership has emerged among U.S.-allied Gulf States, such as it and Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

Netanyahu has publicly visited with the Sultan of Oman, and Israeli athletes have increasingly competed publicly in sporting events in Abu Dhabi, a symbol of softening relations with Jerusalem.

But Al Otaiba argued those important steps are at risk if Netanyahu goes forward with summer plans to exercise sovereignty over Israeli communities in the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

“Normal is not annexation," he wrote. "Instead, annexation is a misguided provocation of another order. And continued talk of normalisation would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states.”

The Trump administration has given mixed signals on its support of the timeline for annexation. Trump unveiled his peace plan in January with a proposed map of a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and parts of Israel’s southern desert, but encircled by an Israeli security border.

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The Trump peace plan was widely rejected by the Palestinians and Arab nations, who are viewed as key to supporting any successful negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority has not communicated with the Trump administration since the fall of 2018.

Al Otaib said he was speaking out and advocating for the Palestinian people.

"All the time, we remain an ardent advocate for the Palestinian people and a long-time champion of the Arab Peace Initiative," he wrote. The Arab Peace Initiative was a 2002 proposal that promised normalization between Arab countries and Israel with a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.

“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,” Al Otaib wrote.

He told The National that he expects criticism for publishing in Israeli media — some nations refuse to recognize any aspect of Israeli society to not legitimize Israel’s existence — but said his message is important to show the wider implications of Israel’s domestic moves.

“And while I’m not going to Tel Aviv to give a speech, I think this has the same kind of value, of speaking directly to an audience to make sure your message gets across to them,” he said.

He further warned that annexation would put tremendous pressure on Jordan.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II had earlier warned in an interview with German media that Israeli steps to annex territory would lead to “massive conflict” between the two countries, and throw their peace treaty into jeopardy.

“Jordan’s stability is something that is instrumental to the region, instrumental to Israel, and many of us take it for granted, to be honest,” Al Otaib said.

“And I thought it was really important to make sure people understand how that decision on annexation will affect countries like Jordan, Egypt and others.”

U.S. administration officials initially said Israel didn’t have to wait to exercise sovereignty over the parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley identified in the U.S.-plan.

Since then, multiple inconclusive Israeli elections stalled efforts, and a joint U.S. and Israeli mapping committee has spent months finalizing the borders of the American-proposed map.

In March, Netanayahu agreed to a power-sharing government with Benny Gantz, who currently serves as Defense Minister and alternate-Prime Minister, with the understanding that Israel would vote on annexing territory on July 1.

The U.S. is pushing for Gantz to support annexation before Washington gives Netanyahu a green-light to apply Israeli law over the communities, the Jerusalem Post reported

But plans for annexation are being pushed back all across the world. E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell in a phone call with Gantz last week expressed concern, saying the E.U. is committed to a two-state solution on “internationally agreed parameters.”

Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. have also spoken out against the plans, with Senate Democrats warning last month unilateral annexation would put Israel’s “security and democracy at risk” and “fray” its relationship with Washington.