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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON - The administration of US President Donald Trump is using the opposition of the United Arab Emirates and other countries of the region to a possible Israeli annexation move next month as a key argument to dissuade the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from annexing occupied Palestinian territories.
The annexation move, which could concern up to 30% of the West Bank, is based on Israel's interpretation of the US peace plan unveiled by Trump last January that was rejected by Arab countries and other world powers as a violation of international law and an obstacle to a two-state-solution guaranteeing the Palestinians people's right to self-determination.
“It is no secret that the Emirates and other states in the region are concerned about annexation, so Israel has a number of decisions before it,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker told Israel's Kan public radio Monday. “However Israel proceeds, that it will do so while taking steps that will preserve the administration’s vision for peace. Israel has in the past been savvy with how it handles relations with its Arab partners, and so I’m sure they will take all these factors into consideration,” he added.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) earlier this month that "the Israeli Government’s programme to impose its sovereignty over areas of the occupied West Bank is unacceptable and violates international laws and resolutions, impedes the peace process, and undermines international efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue,."
In an unprecedented opinion piece published by an Israeli newspaper, UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al-Otaiba also warned last week that annexation "will ignite violence and rouse extremists. It will send shock waves around the region, especially in Jordan whose stability -- often taken for granted -- benefits the entire region, particularly Israel."
Otaiba highlighted the inhibitive impact of annexation on any prospects of normalisation between Israel and Arab states including the UAE, pointing out that "annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE."
A crucial US administration meeting is expected this week in Washington over Israel's annexation move, reported Israeli newspaper The Times of Israel Monday. The meeting, it said, is expected to be attended by top US officials, most likely including Trump, to try to reach a final decision about the Israeli plans. But the US administration is said to be "increasingly split over whether to back Israel’s annexation moves."
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are "said to both back annexation moves," while Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, is reportedly "more ambivalent," said the Israeli paper.
According to The Times of Israel, "Israeli leaders are also split, with Netanyahu vowing to push ahead with annexation no matter what and (Minister of Defence and Alternate Prime Minister Benny) Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, both from the centrist Blue and White party, insisting that the plan only be carried out with wider Arab support."
On Monday, former Israeli ambassadors Alon Liel, Eli Barnavi and Ilan Baruch published a joint oped in UAE newspaper The National expressing support for Al-Otaiba’s positions as expressed in his published oped.
“Mr Al-Otaiba’s statement demonstrates a sincere intention to stand up to the current Israeli government’s steps toward apartheid, as well as the Emirati people’s concern for their Palestinian neighbours,” the three diplomats wrote.
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