The UAE minister calls for strategic change in Israel-Arab relations, saying that Arabs need to engage with Israel on much warmer terms, including abandoning the gist of the “Palestinian cause.”
Rabat – A senior Emirati official has slammed the traditional non-negotiation and principled Arab unity around the Palestinian cause, saying that a two-state solution is no longer feasible and Arab countries should change their approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said in an interview with Emirati newspaper the National that it was “a very wrong decision” for Arab countries not to have normal diplomatic relations with Israel.
Despite a flurry of regional divisions on many issues, support to the Palestinian cause has remained perhaps the single steadfast rallying cry for MENA governments, with Arab countries traditionally saying that Palestinian’s rights to return should be the first condition of diplomatic normalization with Israel.
Gargash, however, sees boycotting Israel as ineffective and counterproductive. He said Arab countries need a “strategic shift” in their relations with Israel if they are to expect a realistic end to the Israel-Palestine issue.
“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,” he said.
Gargash added that a more pragmatic and effective approach to ending the conflict would entail warmer relations with Israel. “Because clearly, you have to really dissect and divide between having a political issue and keeping your lines of communication open.”
Two-state solution not feasible
In recent months, US President Trump’s unapologetically pro-Israel moves in the Middle East, including the 2017 move to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the most recent controversial statements on the Golan Heights, elicited unanimous condemnations from MENA countries.
In the Arab world, the condemnation of the US shift to an openly pro-Israel line was mostly due to the dismay at having Jerusalem stripped of parts of its Arab and Muslim identity. Arab leaders then called for the two-state solution, reiterating their commitment to the Palestinians’ struggle.
According to Gargash, however, it is unrealistic to want Israel to return to the 1967 peace terms. Instead, he argued, pro-Palestinian voices should let go of the two-state solution and rather push for closer ties with Israel to broker peace based on new criteria.
“A two-state solution will no longer be feasible because a sort of reduced rump state will no longer be practical,” the UAE minister said, adding, “What we are facing, if we continue on the current trajectory, I think the conversation in 15 years’ time will really be about equal rights in one state.”
Gargash’s remarks come in the backdrop of reports that Israel and a number of Arab countries have been engaged in intensive behind-the-curtain negotiations to gradually establish official diplomatic lines of communication.
While many of the concerned countries, including Morocco, have denied the reports, the Emirati official’s statements are bound to rekindle debates about Israel-Arab normalization.
Meanwhile, as he campaigns for re-election in upcoming elections on April 8, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been adamant about his Jewish nationalism-flavored stance on Palestine and other policy matters.
“In the face of all pressure, I will always protect our country,” Netanyahu recently said, according to Reuters.
Like Gargash, the Israeli Prime Minister has maintained on numerous occasions in past statements that the two-state solution “is not going to happen.”