The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the US has warned Israel against annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, saying the move would “upend” Israel’s efforts to improve ties with Arab countries.
In a rare appeal to the Israeli public by an Arab official, Yousef al-Otaiba, said on Friday that the move would be an “illegal takeover” of land Palestinians seek for a state.
“Annexation would – certainly and immediately – upend all Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and the UAE,” al-Otaiba wrote in an op-ed in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
Al-Otaiba was among three Arab ambassadors who attended President Donald Trump’s January unveiling of his Middle East plan, which allows Israel to annex around 30 percent of the already illegally occupied West Bank.
The plan was immediately rejected by the Palestinians.
Some Israeli officials have dismissed the notion that applying sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank would slow a discreet opening between Israel and Arab countries – particularly with Gulf states who share Israeli concerns over Iran.
Israel has no diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab countries, but common concerns over Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in ties.
Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries having formal relations with Israel.
In May, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, carrying coronavirus aid for the Palestinians.
“All the progress that you’ve seen and the attitudes that have been changing towards Israel, people becoming more accepting of Israel and less hostile to Israel, all of that could be undermined by a decision to annex,” al-Otaiba said in a video that accompanied the article.
The Israeli government intends to begin debating annexation on July 1.
On Thursday, an Israeli minister said there were gaps with Washington on the issue and that the two allies had yet to agree on a map of territorial lines.
Palestinians want the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – territory Israel captured in the 1967 war – for an envisaged future independent state.
They say annexation would make that impossible, and have called for international sanctions against Israel.