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Peace deal breaks taboos, ends West Bank annexation: Gargash

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The suspension of annexation in the West Bank as agreed by Israel in the peace deal with the UAE is “real and long lasting” Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has said.

“I think the commitment of suspension of annexation is very clear and the presence of the United States as a mediator and an interlocutor of this deal assures me that this suspension is real and long lasting,” Dr Gargash said in a virtual Press briefing on Tuesday.

He addressed the media hours before the historic Abraham Accord was signed between the UAE and Israel. The signing of the accord is considered to be a historic breakthrough in Arab-Jewish ties.

Dr Gargash said the concession the UAE received from Israel to suspend any annexation will “keep the two-state solution on the table and takes away the threat of annexation of lands”.

UAE committed to two-state solution

Forging new ties with Israel does not mean that the UAE is backtracking on its commitment to the Palestinian cause, the minister stressed. “The UAE today has not changed its political position; it remains the same and that position is in support of Palestinian rights to a viable, independent state in East Jerusalem, that is their capital.”

The minister said the Arab Peace Initiative (also known as the Saudi Initiative) to end the Arab-Israeli conflict remains at the heart of the UAE’s collective approach to resolution of the two-state solution.

However, the policy of “not communicating and empty chairs” does not yield results, said Dr Gargash. According to him, Palestinians have more of a chance in realising their national aspirations with the doors of communication left open.

The UAE’s decision to normalise ties with Israel that was swiftly followed up by Bahrain – the fourth Arab country and the second GCC nation to extend a hand of friendship to Israel – has angered some in Palestine.

But Dr Gargash argued that once “much of the anger to do with the polarisation in the Arab world subsidies”, there will be a realisation in Palestine that Israel’s new allies in the Arab world will only help leverage their cause.

“It will actually help the Palestinians in impressing that the path forward needs compromises and a path forward needs more rational approach in arriving at better solutions for everyone,” he said.

He added that it is also an opportunity for Israel to show the peace that actually yields positive results “because it will only encourage the region to break many of the demonisation and counter demonisation that we have seen over the years”.

Deal to strengthen country’s image as an open society

Voicing optimism and confidence on how the Abraham Accord will set the region on a more prosperous and peaceful path, the minister said it will also bolster the UAE’s standing regionally and globally as an open and progressive economy and society.

“On the bilateral side, we have for a long time spoken about religious tolerance, about cultural tolerance. And I think we are really putting this clearly across by saying that political issues, political differences need to be resolved but need not be obstacles towards communication; need not be obstacles towards building healthy bilateral relations,” said Dr Gargash.

“We believe that this will make the UAE more competitive … and will at the same time help the UAE become more of a global player in terms of breaking taboos and walls.”

Breaking the psychological barrier

Dr Gargash said the UAE has broken the psychological barrier by putting years of hostilities behind and forging new ties with Israel. “This was the most difficult thing.”

He said when His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, took the decision, “the heaviest burden was the psychological barrier … how can you really change how we think about things and how we do things over so many years”.

But once the barriers in the mind are broken, he said issues are manageable though not easy. The minister stressed that much hard work needs to be done to the actualisation of real peace between the two nations.

F-35 deal: Country seeking to modernise its military

Dr Gargash said the Abraham Accord should deal with “any grain of doubt” on why the UAE should get the F-35. The minister said the F-16s that are at the “cornerstone of the UAE’s air force are now almost two-decades old”. “And it is time to renew these.”

He said the UAE seeks, like any other country that takes its military seriously, to modernise its armed forces. “Our request for F-35 and other systems predates this agreement. This has been on the table for much longer.”

He said his country will have to make a compelling argument to get F-35s. “And I believe that we will win that argument.”

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