In a recent interview with UAE based newspaper, The National, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash called for a “strategic shift” in Arab-Israeli diplomatic ties. He claimed that boycotting the Jewish state was a a mistake.
“Many, many years ago, when there was an Arab decision not to have contact with Israel, that was a very, very wrong decision, looking back,” Gargash said.
Lately, however, a shift has taken place in Arab-Israeli diplomatic relations.
President of Chad, Idriss Déby, made a diplomatic trip to Israel in November, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman to meet with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in October.
Currently, Israel has formal diplomatic relations with only two Arab countries: Egypt and Jordan. Israel sees the Arab nations as potential allies against regional adversary, Iran. The UAE has taken a firmly anti-Iran foreign policy stance.
Nevertheless, many in the Arab world seem reluctant to follow Jordan and Egypt’s lead as long as the Israel-Palestine conflict remains unresolved.
Gargash however, calls for a change, which he believes will be in the best interest of resolving said conflict.
“Because clearly, you have to really dissect and divide between having a political issue and keeping your lines of communication open.” he argued.
“From the perspective of the UAE, we do need to resolve it, because this issue has this tendency of jumping out of the background when it’s quiet to suddenly becoming headline news.”
Gargash predicts “increased contact between Arab countries and Israel’’ including “small bilateral deals and visits by politicians and sports players.
This is a reference to events in October, when Israeli Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev traveled to UAE for the ‘Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament’, and the Israeli national anthem ‘Hatikvah’ was played after Sagi Muki won gold. Regev visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi alongside UAE officials. This is the third-largest Mosque in the world and a site frequently shown to world leaders visiting UAE.
Regardless, certain issues continue to hinder diplomatic progress. Gargash has been deeply critical of Israel’s ‘nation-state law’ and President Trump’s recent recognition of a disputed territory, the Golan Heights, as part of Israel.
According a recent survey by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem this week, 42 percent of the Emirati public are interested in establishing ties with Israel.