Israel appoints first diplomat to UAE

DUBAI: Israel has appointed Eitan Naeh to set up a temporary mission in the United Arab Emirates, newspaper The Times of Israel reported.
The news of Naeh’s appointment was first carried by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster. The diplomat served as an ambassador in Turkey from 2016 until 2018, when he was expelled by Ankara.
He will be the first Israeli to receive a full diplomatic status in the UAE and his temporary mission will help establish a permanent embassy.
The UAE and Bahrain in August became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to normalize relations and establish formal ties with Israel. The “Abraham Accords” were brokered by US President Donald Trump and signed during a ceremony at the White House.

 

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Moving White House ceremony starts to relegitimize a precious little word: Peace

26 years after the Israel-Jordan treaty, a whole generation of Israelis and Arabs witnesses something it had simply never seen before

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up the documents they signed at the Abraham Accords ceremony where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

“In Israel’s entire history, there have previously been only two such agreements. Now we have achieved two in a single month. And there are more to follow.” Thus spoke US President Donald Trump near the start of his remarks to hundreds of people at the White House, and untold numbers around the world, watching on Tuesday as Israel established relations simultaneously with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Our first, earth-shattering peace agreement came in 1979, when Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat — having restored his country’s self-respect in the 1973 war, after its six-day humiliation in 1967 — shattered three decades of intransigent Arab hostility to the very fact of Israel’s existence and signed the Camp David Accords with prime minister Menachem Begin.

And then came… nothing.

Israel had wanted to believe that after Egypt, the floodgates of normalization would open. Instead, Egypt was boycotted by the rest of the Arab world for its crime in legitimizing Israel, and Sadat was soon gunned down.

Only 15 years later, in 1994, did Jordan’s King Hussein dare to become our second full peace partner, liberated to publicly acknowledge his hidden alliance with Israel because prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had pledged to try to resolve the Palestinian conflict and had warily shaken hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

And then came… nothing. Nothing, this time, for a full quarter century

Until Tuesday’s dual wedding.

And so, when Trump noted that he was overseeing the doubling of Israel’s entire history of peace alliances, he was also telling a whole generation of Israelis and of Arabs — a generation that has simply never witnessed such a ceremony before — that, yes, Israeli-Arab peace is actually possible. It can be achieved here and now. It’s not something that happened a couple of times long ago and then froze over, or that dreamers talk endlessly about being almost within reach.

And it’s hopefully not something that, after it is ostensibly attained, disintegrates into conflict and bloodshed, as was the case with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and the strategic Palestinian terrorist onslaught of the Second Intifada.

For once, “let us put all cynicism aside,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his remarks. And for a rare few hours, in the midst of a pandemic, and even as Hamas tried to spoil the show with rocket fire from Gaza, everything about the ceremony encouraged us to do precisely that.

What Netanyahu called “the pulse of history” was tangible in the warmth of the separate interactions between Trump, the two Gulf foreign ministers, and Netanyahu that preceded the main event. If Tuesday’s widening of the circle of peace was insufficient, Trump vouchsafed to Netanyahu that “five or six” other states are waiting in line. “Frankly, we could have had them here today,” he said, but that would have been disrespectful to the UAE, which had shown the courage to go first, and to Bahrain, which had been so determined to join the festivities.

It was tangible in the content of all the leaders’ speeches — their individual declared commitments to genuine and lasting peace between our peoples — and the sincerity and warmth with which they delivered their remarks.

It was tangible in the little-noticed moments, such as when UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Nahyan, having completed his address, walked over to where Netanyahu was standing, and, with attention focused elsewhere, they smiled at each other and exchanged a few words. Or when everybody — and especially the joyful star of the show Al Nahyan — laughed good-naturedly at the logistical complexities that inevitably arise when two-to-four leaders are signing and/or witnessing three accords.

If Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was the first vital step toward the acceptance of modern Israel’s revival in the Jews’ ancient homeland, Tuesday’s ceremony may come to signify our belated acceptance by those further afield who, as Trump noted, have for decades been fed lies and falsehoods about Israel, and especially Israel’s ostensible religious intolerance.

The Palestinians are still absent, of course, dismally led in the West Bank by President Mahmoud Abbas into what appears to be a deepening alliance with the Gaza-ruling terrorists of Hamas. Still, the US president who brokered these accords remains insistently optimistic that, as he told the press pack during his Oval Office session with Netanyahu, “at the right time, they’ll be joining too.”

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said at the very start of his speech. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” he went on, and “thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”

Trump delivered these hitherto mind-boggling claims in tones that were almost matter-of-fact. These new peace allies are “going to work together; they are friends,” he said, as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

But for a whole generation, 26 years after any of us last saw anything like it, Tuesday’s ceremony was anything but normal. It was, rather, unprecedented, surprising and heartening. For once in the tortured context of Israel and the Arab conflict, it was a pleasure to put all cynicism aside.

For after 26 years, Tuesday’s ceremony tentatively relegitimized that precious little word: Peace.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


UAE-Israel agreement followed many years of discreet talks

In-depth: Agreement between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem comes as little surprise to those closely following the nuances of Mideast politics, with Trump almost single-mindedly pushing deal without resolution first to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Secret talks and quiet ties: That’s what paved the way for last week’s deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize relations.

Touted by President Donald Trump as a major Mideast breakthrough, the agreement was in fact the culmination of more than a decade of quiet links rooted in frenzied opposition to Iran that predated Trump and even Barack Obama, as well as Trump’s avowed goal to undo his predecessor’s Mideast legacy.
And the deal leaves behind what had been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region: resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The effort to achieve that goal picked up speed 17 months ago at a U.S.-led conference in Warsaw, according to officials involved.
That February 2019 meeting, originally conceived as an anti-Iran gathering, morphed into a broader Mideast security endeavor after European objections to its agenda. Many countries opted not to send their top diplomats, and Russia, China and the Palestinians skipped it entirely. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended, however, as did the foreign ministers of key Arab states.
At the summit, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain spoke of the threat Iran posed to their security and its use of Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. They stressed that confronting Iran had become the top priority — ahead of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — in comments appearing in leaked video, whose authenticity was confirmed by a U.S. official who attended the gathering.
Netanyahu followed, echoing similar concerns.“Iran was very high on the agenda because Iran’s foreign policy is the biggest driver of instability in today’s Middle East,” the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told The Associated Press.
Four months after the summit, a secret meeting between the UAE and Israel took place on June 17, 2019, in Washington.
The trilateral focused on regional, cyber and maritime security, as well as diplomatic coordination and disrupting terror finance, according to a U.S. official who participated but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
More meetings followed in the U.S., Israel and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, culminating in Thursday’s Trump announcement that his administration had brokered a deal between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations and exchange embassies. The UAE said Israel also agreed to halt its controversial plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank sought by the Palestinians.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told White House reporters that discussions for the deal took place over the past year and a half.
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s an inevitability, right?” Kushner said, adding later: “No Israeli has ever killed an Emirati, right? There’s not that hatred between the people.”
To be sure, Israel and the UAE have never fought each other in war and do not share borders. Still, the agreement was far more warmly welcomed in Israel than the UAE, where the public has long viewed Israel with suspicion. But criticism has been muted, in part because of government suppression of free speech.
The UAE, composed of seven emirates run by hereditary rulers led by Abu Dhabi, will be only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full ties with Israel. By doing so, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid a path for countries like Morocco, Bahrain, Oman or Sudan to potentially follow.
There are many, though, who shun any Arab embrace of Israel. To the Palestinians, who say they had no prior notice of the deal, the UAE turned its back on the longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel can only come after Israeli concessions in peace talks lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think the UAE is least beholden to these old formulas of solidarity … which gives them more strategic flexibility,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“There’s no question that among the broader Arab and Gulf public, this will be a very unpopular move,” she said, adding that the agreement also leaves the UAE vulnerable to whatever decisions Israel makes in the future.
For the UAE, however, the calculus to build relations with Israel carries a number of strategic advantages beyond countering Iran and suspending West Bank annexation.
Through Israel, the UAE can build stronger ties with both Republicans and Democrats — a crucial hedge considering the uncertainty of Trump’s reelection chances against former Vice President Joe Biden in November’s U.S. presidential elections.
Another impetus was the perception among Arab Gulf states that U.S. dependability had waned, from the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, to Trump’s unpredictability in foreign policy. Their views on the matter have been reflected in state-linked newspaper columns and in quiet grumbling at private gatherings.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also barred by Congress from purchasing billions of dollars in U.S. weapons due to the humanitarian toll of their war in Yemen, before Trump vetoed the measures.
“Their first preference is to have the United States heavily involved in the Middle East as their primary ally. If they can’t get that, which … under Trump they absolutely cannot, then they’re going for second best, and Israel is second best,” said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and now Mideast expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Saudis and Emiratis want to build up military strength and want the U.S. to give them more freedom of maneuver in places like Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. With a stronger Emirati-Israeli alliance, “they can count on the Israelis to also make that case in Washington,” Pollack said.
Hook argues it was the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear accord that helped seal the latest deal.
“Israel and UAE felt betrayed by Obama’s Iran strategy. With us, they knew we stood with our allies and partners, and that trust was a critical factor in getting this peace agreement done,” said Hook, who was involved in the trilateral talks.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has eroded vital oil and tourism revenue, the UAE will look to its ties with Israel to deepen trade links, security cooperation and technology sharing. Already, the UAE has deployed Israeli spyware against dissidents, according to a lawsuit brought against the company in Israel.
UAE efforts to seek better ties with Israel as a means of improving its standing in Washington dates back to 2006, according to Sigurd Neubauer, author of the book “The Gulf Region and Israel: Old Struggles, New Alliances.”
It began with a public-relations crisis over Dubai port operator DP World’s failed bid to manage major ports in the U.S. The longtime UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, held his first meeting with an Israeli official in 2008 and a diplomatic channel was established to focus on Iran, Neubauer said.
The relationship hit a snag in 2010 when the UAE accused Israeli Mossad operatives of assassinating Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
Nearly a decade later, then-Culture Minister Miri Regev stood in Abu Dhabi and sang her country’s national anthem at a judo competition, shook hands warmly with Emirati officials and toured the emirate’s grand mosque in a public spectacle of warming ties.
In January, when Trump unveiled his Mideast plan — it was rejected by the Palestinians — the ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman attended the White House ceremony, which featured Netanyahu.
Senior Emirati diplomat Anwar Gargash said the relationship with Israel grew “organically” over the last 15 years or so.
“Through engagement with the Trump administration, the idea … developed and percolated, and it was right to do it,” he said.
The article was published on Ynet