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Is the UAE preparing to downgrade ties with Israel?
UAE furious over latest Israeli actions
The UAE is showing increasing signs of concern towards Israel and its latest increasingly aggressive policy towards Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
According to a diplomatic source from the UAE, a group of high-ranking officials, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, will visit Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s residence to express official condemnation of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s recent controversial statement that denies the existence of the Palestinian people. It remains uncertain whether the delegation will also hold talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
On Monday, the UAE’s Foreign Affairs Ministry released a statement rejecting any rhetoric that incites conflict and violates moral and human principles. The statement called for an end to all illegal activities that endanger the prospect of a two-state solution.
The UAE president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has committed to donating $3 million to fund the reconstruction of Huwara in the occupied West Bank. This gesture comes in response to recent calls made by a minister in Israel’s far-right extremist government, advocating for the town’s demolition.
Following a violent rampage by radical settlers on Feb. 26, which resulted in the loss of one Palestinian life and extensive damage to homes and cars, Huwara has remained a target for attacks. There have been numerous attempts by settlers to harm the town’s inhabitants since the initial incident.
Anwar Gargash, a senior adviser to the president, said the $3 million pledge was an “authentic expression of the country’s consistent and firm support for the Palestinian people.”
Israel shows signs of internal ruptures
The UAE’s doubts could be further fueled by the increasingly unsure position of Netanyahu and his government in power in Israel as internal opposition appears to be growing rapidly.
Protests continued in Israel on Thursday, with demonstrators voicing opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms. Critics of the reforms argue that they represent an attempt by Netanyahu to seize power, and he rejected a compromise suggested by President Isaac Herzog.
If implemented, the changes would grant politicians significant authority in the appointment of Supreme Court judges and allow them to overrule the court’s decisions. Protesters in Tel Aviv held up signs with slogans such as “the end of democracy,” denouncing the reforms as a threat to democratic governance. The growing opposition against Netanyahu suggests that he may face significant challenges to his authority in the coming months.
Ahead of a public intervention by the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned him for a meeting. The expected topic of discussion is the government’s controversial judicial overhaul, which has drawn criticism for eroding Israel’s democratic system.
Netanyahu has postponed his flight to London on Thursday evening to make a public announcement at 8pm local time. Public broadcaster Kan has reported that Gallant will likely urge for a cessation of the reforms following a meeting with military chief of staff Herzi Halevi, who warned of severe consequences if the proposed bills are passed. Gallant is also said to have consulted with Benny Gantz, an opposition politician and former military chief who previously served as defense minister.
In related news, Justice Minister Yariv Levin has informed Netanyahu’s office that he will resign if the reforms are stopped, according to Kan.
The UAE is also freezing its purchase of military equipment from Israel over Prime Minister Benjamin-Netanyahu’s government’s recent policies, Channel 12 News reported on Sunday.
UAE’s ties with Israel still strong
Despite this, the UAE’s economic and diplomatic ties with Israel have rapidly grown to an advanced stage in the last 3 years, and it is hard to envision a sudden downgrade in economic ties considering the extent of progress made, despite the challenges in recent months.
Diamond trade between the United Arab Emirates and Israel reached $1.75 billion in 2022, representing a 163% increase over 2021, according to Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC), a leading global free zone and government authority on commodities trade and enterprise.
The increase, reported only a few days in advance of International Diamond Week in Tel Aviv, is illustrative of the consistently deepening relationship between the UAE and Israel since the historic ratification of the Abraham Accords in 2020.
Despite this, UAE-Israel ties face many challenges ahead, as the UAE intends to strengthen its ties with Iran, which infuriates Israel.
Iran’s top security official held high-level talks in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday as Tehran seeks greater outreach to Gulf states amid mounting tensions with the West over the country’s nuclear work and its drone sales to Russia.
The UAE has been quietly strengthening diplomatic ties with Iran over the last years, and the recent historic agreement to re-establish diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran will most probably only accelerate this, as the UAE adapts its interest to a new order in the Gulf and Middle East, not dominated by the US and Israel alone anymore.