Anwar Gargash: UAE is part and parcel of Arab consensus on Palestinian-Israeli conflict

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, reaffirmed his country’s support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, rejecting proposed annexation, but also favoured keeping open communications with Israel.

Dr Gargash told a video conference at the American Jewish Committee’s global forum on Tuesday that the UAE position was very much “part and parcel” within the Arab consensus.

“The UAE supports a two-state solution, supports negotiations and is against annexation,” Dr Gargash said.

His comments come two weeks before an expected announcement by the Israeli government of that it will annex occupied land in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

But Dr Gargash advocated for open lines of communication with Israel, despite policy disagreements.

“Sixty and 70 years have shown that the full break-up has increased the animosity [with Israel], in my opinion,” he said, referring to the drawn-out Arab boycott of Israel since 1948.

“Not having these lines has only radicalised the region and what was possible to achieve in 1948 became very difficult to achieve in 1967.

"And what was possible to achieve in 1967 became very difficult in the eighties.”

Israel intends to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as proposed by US President Donald Trump, with initial steps slated to begin from July 1. AFP
Israel intends to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as proposed by US President Donald , with initial steps slated to begin from July 1. AFP

In 1948 and 1967, the Arab world fought major wars with Israel and it was not until 1977, under former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, that negotiations started.

“Egypt achieved many of its goals through negotiations," Dr Gargash said. "We see negotiations and having lines of communications open will yield better results for us and for Israel ...

"We want to see a region that’s more stable, that can resolve its issues over the negotiating table."

He told moderator Jason Isaacson that the UAE was not a “trailblazer” in opening communications with Israel, naming several regional countries that have done so in the past four decades.

“If you let us look at the regional scene, the reality is you have major countries that have normal relations with Israel, such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan," Dr Gargash said.

He said Qatar was one of the region's first in trying to normalise relations with Israel.

He blamed radicalisation in the region for the instability and regression.

Dr Gargash spoke about the establishment of the UAE’s first synagogue and the country’s history in interfaith tolerance.

“Jason, I grew up in a small port which is now the city of ," he said.

"Since I was a kid we had a church, a Hindu temple ... this is the country we come from.”

Dr Gargash also stressed the need for American engagement in the Middle East, regardless of who wins the election on November 3.

“We have always looked for America as our main and most important strategic ally," he said. "We want to see an America engaged in the region.

“Engagement doesn’t mean we want America to fight our wars, or to be involved in different altercations. American engagement is more than military, it is trade, investment and soft power.”

Dr Gargash also stressed the need for engagement with Iran.

“We don’t want to see any war with Iran right on our borders,” he said.

He hoped that Tehran would agree to enter into negotiations and address regional concerns about its missile programme and proxies.

In the longer run, Dr Gargash advocated a new regional structure that would involve Iran.

“We need a process that creates a zone of stability and prosperity that Iran can be part of," he said. "Right now it is difficult."

Palestinian protesters wave flags as Israeli troops take position during a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Reuters

Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured a new term in office, there’s little to prevent him from annexing large parts of the West Bank as early as this summer. AP

An Israeli soldier stands guard during a tour made by Israeli parliament members in the Jordan Valley near the Jewish settlement of Maale Efrayim. Reuters

Israeli soldiers take position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. AP

King Abdullah (r) of Transjordan on May 13, 1948 in Amman with Abed Al Rahman Azzam, the secretary general of the Arab League and Abd Al Elah Ibn Ali, the Prince Regent of Iraq, the day before the beginning of the first Arab-Israeli War. AFP

Palestinians surrender to Israeli soldiers in June 1967 in the occupied territory of the West Bank after Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and Syria and seized the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights in Syria as well as the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. AFP

A Palestinian child plays in a refugee camp in Jordan on June 23, 1967. AFP

PLO chairman Yasser Arafat delivers a speech to the Palestine National Council meeting to make the historic proclamation of a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied territories and to recognize Israel in the Palace of Nations conference hall on November 12, 1988, in Algiers. AFP

US President Bill Clinton stands between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzahk Rabin as they shake hands for the first time on September 13, 1993 at the White House. AFP

Hussein Ibn Talal, King of Jordan and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin shake hands after they exchanged the documents of the Peace Treaty at Beit Gabriel conference centre on November 10, 1994 on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Palestinian leadership meeting and threatened to end security coordination with Israel and the United States, saying Israeli annexation would ruin chances for peace. AFP

Houses in the Israeli settlement of settlement of Kedumim are seen in the foreground as part of the Palestinian city of Nablus is seen in the background (far left) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reuters

Israel's controversial concrete barrier (C) separating the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov (foreground) in the northern part of east Jerusalem and the Palestinian area of al-Ram (background) in the occupied West Bank. AFP

An Israeli activist holds a banner during a protest against the US peace plan for the Middle East, in front of the US ambassador's residence in Jerusalem, on May 15, 2020, as Palestinians commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the 1948 Nakba or "catastrophe". AFP

A Palestinian shepherd tends to his camels on arid land considered to be in "Area C" (under Israeli security and administrative control), southeast of Yatta town in the southern West Bank district of Hebron. AFP

A general view of the Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh, as seen from the Palestinian village of Azmout near the West Bank City of Nablus. EPA

File photo: The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Michmash. AP

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There are increasing concerns from Arab countries on Israeli annexation.

On Tuesday, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned in a conference call with regional leaders that any Israeli attempt to annex lands in the West Bank was unacceptable and undermined the prospects of peace and stability in the region.

King Abdullah “stressed the importance of establishing an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital", a statement read.

US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was on the call.

On Friday, Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the US, made his first direct address to the Israeli public in an opinion piece in the high-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

In it, Mr Al Otaiba, also a Minister of State, warned that a planned annexation of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley would be a major impediment to Israel’s hope of establishing ties with the Arab world and to Jordan’s stability.

Updated: June 17, 2020 02:03 AM

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