The United Arab Emirates (UAE) intends to maintain its diplomatic ties with Israel despite international criticism of the escalating conflict in Gaza. The UAE aims to exert some influence over Israel’s campaign while safeguarding its own interests. This information comes from four sources familiar with UAE government policy.
Abu Dhabi, under the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, became the first prominent Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in 30 years. This breakthrough paved the way for other Arab states to normalize relations with Israel without the condition of a Palestinian state.
The mounting death toll resulting from Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, which was launched in response to cross-border attacks by the Hamas militant group, has sparked outrage in Arab capitals.
UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. UAE officials have publicly condemned Israel’s actions and called for an end to the violence.
In response to a request for comment, an Emirati official stated that the UAE’s immediate priority is to secure a ceasefire and establish humanitarian corridors.
The UAE, as a Gulf Arab power with significant influence in regional affairs, also serves as a security partner to the United States by hosting American forces.
According to the four sources, the UAE has been working to moderate the public positions of Arab states. This effort aims to create the possibility of a broad dialogue once the war ends.
Sheikh Mohamed met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Qatar is brokering talks for the release of hostages in exchange for a cessation of hostilities.
Despite the UAE’s close economic and security ties with Israel, it has had limited success in curbing the Gaza offensive, which has resulted in the deaths of over 11,000 people, according to Palestinian officials. Israeli authorities have reported that Hamas killed around 1,200 people in its surprise attack on Israel and took approximately 240 hostages.
The UAE has grown increasingly frustrated with its main security partner, the United States, believing that it is not exerting enough pressure to end the war.
Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president, stated that Washington needs to swiftly end the conflict and initiate a process to address the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The UAE has expressed concern that the ongoing war could ignite regional tensions and lead to a new wave of extremism in the Middle East.
During a UN Security Council meeting, UAE ambassador Lana Nusseibeh highlighted the UAE’s efforts to deliver prosperity and security through cooperation and peaceful coexistence. She expressed concern that Israel’s actions in Gaza risk extinguishing that hope.
Arab states have now recognized that building ties with Israel requires addressing the Palestinian issue. Israel’s foreign ministry declined to comment on this matter.
The UAE will continue to host an Israeli ambassador, and there are no plans to end diplomatic ties. This represents a long-term strategic priority for Abu Dhabi.
The UAE’s decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel was motivated by shared concerns over the threat posed by Iran and a broader economic-driven realignment of Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy. The UAE views Iran as a regional security threat.
Israel and the UAE have developed close economic and security ties since normalizing relations, including defense cooperation. Israel provided the UAE with air defense systems following missile and drone attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen.
Bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE has exceeded $6 billion since 2020. Israeli tourists have also flocked to the UAE, which is an OPEC oil power and a regional business hub.
The UAE is determined to maintain its gains and not lose the progress made through its ties with Israel.
Abu Dhabi has been concerned about Israel’s right-wing government’s failure to curb the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and repeated visits by right-wing religious Israelis to the Al Aqsa mosque compound, a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The UAE has not ruled out the possibility of downgrading or severing ties if the crisis escalates. Displacement of the Palestinian population from Gaza or the West Bank into Egypt or Jordan is a red line for Abu Dhabi.
James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore, believes that the war in Gaza has shown that economic cooperation alone cannot build a stable region.
While criticizing Israel’s conduct of the war, Abu Dhabi has also condemned Hamas for its attack. The UAE views Hamas and other Islamists as a threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond.
The UAE has been at the forefront of opposing Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, providing support to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after the military takeover in 2013.
Abu Dhabi also played a role in the fall of Sudan’s former Islamist president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, leading to the decline of the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence in Sudan.
The UAE continues to host an Israeli ambassador and has no plans to sever diplomatic ties, as this represents a long-term strategic priority. The UAE’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Israel was driven by shared concerns over Iran and a realignment of its foreign policy. The UAE has developed close economic and security ties with Israel, including defense cooperation. Bilateral trade has exceeded $6 billion, and Israeli tourists have flocked to the UAE. However, the UAE remains concerned about Israel’s settlement expansion and visits to the Al Aqsa mosque compound. The UAE has not ruled out downgrading or severing ties if the crisis escalates, particularly if there is displacement of Palestinians into neighboring countries. The UAE has also condemned Hamas and views it as a threat, aligning with its opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood.
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