Anwar Gargash: several Arab states on the path to normalising relations with Israel

Last week US President Donald Trump announced historic deal between UAE and Israel, and it seems other states will follow

A screengrab from Atlantic Council's Front Page featuring Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Courtesy Atlantic Council
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More Arab nations are on a path to normalising ties with Israel, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Thursday, a week after the UAE agreed to a peace accord with Israel.

Dr Gargash said a normalised relationship with Israel under the Abraham Accord would be warm, compared with the two other Arab nations that have ties with the country.

“Unlike Jordan and unlike Egypt we have not fought a war with Israel,” he said.

US President Donald Trump announced the peace accord between the UAE and Israel on August 13.

“The decision to normalise ties with Israel was coming sooner or later,” Dr Gargash told an Atlantic Council session by video link.

When asked about Palestinian opposition to the accord, he said the UAE was committed to a two-state solution.

Dr Gargash said the UAE had not discussed the accord with any friends before it was agreed to, including the Palestinians.

He referred to the accord as a risk but said other risky endeavours to drive the UAE forward, such as the Pope’s visit in 2019, had paid off.

"This is a bold and courageous step that Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed took," Dr Gargash said.

"He understands the strategic landscape but this is one of the strategic decisions that have to be made and they will open up the region further."

Dr Gargash said the UAE saw an opportunity because it has always been urged by Palestinians and other Arab countries to assist in halting the annexation.

“By linking to the agreement to the suspension of annexation, we came up with a good deal,” he said.

The UAE would benefit from the "technological prowess of Israelis in certain areas, and they will benefit from the dynamic nature of the UAE economy", Dr Gargash said.

He said the accord with Israel did not represent a departure from support for the Palestinian cause or a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Dr Gargash said the UAE had wanted to reaffirm its global position in terms of business, finance and logistics.

“We can’t do this while we maintain an exclusive view of the world,” he said.

"This is one of the bold and strategic decisions that we made. It will open up the region further.

"We are very touched by the universal support for the decision from some capitals.”

Dr Gargash said that any UAE embassy in Israel would be in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

Mr Trump shifted the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 in a move that was opposed by many Arab states.

Dr Gargash said the deal with Israel showed a firm commitment by the Israeli government to suspend annexation, giving space for the two-state solution to emerge.

"If you look at the Arab Peace Initiative, it is about a two-state solution," he said.
Dr Gargash said the peace accord with Israel should remove any hurdle to the US selling F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.

“We have legitimate requests that are there," he said. "We ought to get them. The whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists."

Washington has sold the F-35 to allies but sales to the Gulf require a deeper review because of US policy for Israel to maintain a military advantage in the Middle East.

Dr Gargash also spoke about engaging with Iran to resolve outstanding issues.

“Iran is a neighbour and it is important for us to say that we have serious issues with Iran and we want to resolve these through negotiations,” he said.

“Our objective is to have a much better relationship with Iran in the future.”