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UAE reportedly considers downgrading diplomatic mission in Israel

Inflammatory comments by coalition members, Netanyahu’s silence create diplomatic distance

UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja and Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the opening ceremony of the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2021. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to a report in Saudi newspaper Elaph, the United Arab Emirates is considering downgrading its diplomatic presence in Israel. 

The report stated that the UAE instructed its ambassador, Ahmed al-Khaja, not to meet with any Israeli official, including Knesset members, and not to participate in any official ceremonies, or ceremonies attended by Israeli government officials. 

The move comes after a speech by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in Paris on Sunday, in which he said, “There is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.” 

Last month, Smotrich called for the town of Huwara to be “wiped out,” leading many Israeli and international politicians to denounce his comments as extreme rhetoric. 

While Khaldoon al-Mubarak, senior advisor to UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is reportedly on a visit to Israel, the Elaph report cited “a senior Israeli source” saying the UAE has rejected an official visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

A December 2022 visit by Israel’s now-National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to the UAE’s embassy in Tel Aviv before the Netanyahu coalition took power, was condemned by many in the Arab world. UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed reportedly warned Netanyahu about including Ben Gvir in his ruling coalition. In his warning, bin Zayed told Netanyahu that extremist lawmakers in the coalition risked damaging ties with the UAE. 

Earlier this month, Netanyahu denied reports by Israel’s News 12 that relations with the UAE were cooling off. 

According to that report, the UAE president told Israeli officials, “Until we make sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu has a government that he controls, we cannot do things together.” 

The Saudi report notes that the UAE is discouraged by Netanyahu’s silence in the face of extreme comments by Smotrich and Ben Gvir and believes this silence only aggravates tensions. 

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan also expressed disagreement, both with Smotrich’s comments and with a map of "Greater Israel" – boundaries of the promised land as promised by God – displayed on the podium where he was speaking. The map shows Israel including modern-day Jordan. 

The map was apparently popular with the Irgun Jewish-defense organization, which operated before the founding of the modern State of Israel. The Irgun carried out several attacks against local Arabs and British Mandate officials, which was condemned by the Jewish Agency at the time. 

Following Smotrich’s Paris speech, the Israeli government reassured the Jordanian government that Israel respects its territorial borders, and that Smotrich’s comments do not represent the government’s views. This reassurance came after Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador to complain. 

Israel’s National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi also contacted his Jordanian counterpart to assure him that Smotrich’s comments and behavior did not represent the Israeli government’s position. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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