Top UAE official urges greater cooperation with Israel

Anwar Gargash

The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates has called for increased cooperation with Israel, saying the UAE wants to separate disagreements with Tel Aviv over the Palestinian issue from the mutual benefits of cooperation in other fields.

Addressing a major U.S.-Jewish online conference on Tuesday, Anwar Gargash advocated for “open lines of communications” and increased liaison with Tel Aviv in various areas, such as technology and health.

The conference was organised by AJC, which is a leading global Jewish, pro-Israel advocacy organisation.

During his address Gargash did reiterate Abu Dhabi’s opposition to Israel’s planned unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, but underlined his country’s policy of “decoupling the political from the non-political.”

“Can I have a political disagreement with Israel but at the same time try and bridge other areas of the relationship? I think I can. I think that is fundamentally where we are,” Gargash said.

He added there was no reason not to cooperate with Israel on efforts to bring medical aid to Palestinians suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE’s airline, Etihad, has recently flown to Tel Aviv twice

Such collaboration, which last week led to the second of two Emirati airliners landing in Tel Aviv, does not affect his country’s opposition to Israel’s planned annexation, he stressed.

Gargash noted that decades of Arab hostility toward Israel has only bred animosity that now makes it harder to work together for the common good.

“The UAE is clearly against any annexation as is being proposed by the current Israeli government. Having said that, that is the political domain. Do I have to really look at all the other domains and make them almost static because of the political domain? We have tried that, as a group of Arab countries, over many years, and I don’t think it has really led to what we want in terms of bringing stability to the region,” he told the interviewer.

“I think we can come to a point where we come to a given Israeli government… and say, we disagree with you on this [annexation], we don’t think it’s a good idea, but at the same time there are areas, such a COVID, technology and other things, where we can actually work together.”

“What we see today is that negotiations, and having lines of communications open, actually will yield better results for us and for the Israelis,” he added.

The traditional Arab policy of “stonewalling and closed lines of communications” has only radicalised the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the senior diplomat opined.

“The idea of demonising Arabs by radicals on the Israeli side, or the idea of demonising Jews by radicals on the Arab side, has not helped anybody. We need to take that element out and we need to come and say we do have lines of communications.”

In March 2019, Gargash publicly called for a “strategic shift” in Israel-Arab ties, saying the Arab world’s decades-old decision to boycott the Jewish state had been a mistake.

The Palestinians oppose any attempts by the Arab world to normalise ties with Israel, saying it amounts to treachery. The Palestinian Authority has also refused to accept the UAE supplies on the planes.

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