UAE lauds bipartisan support for Israel accord

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyanin (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020, prior to the signing of the Abraham Accords, where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates will recognize Israel.

SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates will foster relations with Israel irrespective of a change in American leadership, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday, as top officials gather to sign the so-called Abraham Accord with Israel at the White House.

“There is no reason why we cannot move faster and establish embassies and consulates very soon,” Gargash said, adding the new agreement “frames the type of relations that the two states will try to strive for.”

The Abraham Accord, signed on August 13 by the UAE and Israel, marks the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Bahrain recently became the fourth nation in the Middle East to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel, after Jordan, Egypt and the UAE. President Donald Trump will be joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign ministers from the UAE and Bahrain for the ceremony.

Presidential race could shift regional dynamic

The signing comes as the race for the White House intensifies. With just 49 days until the November vote, President Trump is seeking to bolster his dealmaking credentials as a peacemaker in the Middle East, a foreign policy win that eluded previous administrations.

Jared Kushner, White House senior advisor and the U.S. president’s son-in-law, led an Israeli delegation on the first ever direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi last month.

“We have, over the years, every four to eight years adjusted to the change of administrations in Washington,” Gargash said, playing down suggestions that a Biden presidency could negate the deal.

“I feel that we have no issue really adjusting to really any changes, whether we see four more years of President Trump or we see a Biden Administration,” he said.

The Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran unnerved America’s Gulf Arab allies and Israel, and was seen as a pivot away from traditional partnerships in the region. Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s foreign policy team includes those who worked on the nuclear accord and, pending Tehran’s compliance, Biden has pledged to re-enter the agreement if elected president.

Biden has expressed support for the Abraham Accord, calling the deal a “historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East.”

“His enthusiasm for it made this, from the current administration’s policy – to an American policy,” Gargash said.

Tech, business, military opportunity eyed as ties normalize

Gargash also said his country’s decision to normalize ties with Israel was “the way forward” for the region, creating more opportunities for business. “The idea is to build what I would call a friendly, fruitful bilateral relationship,” he said.

“I see us moving towards more trade, more investment and more cooperation,” he added, saying that further agreements on technology, health and agribusiness will be penned in the coming months.

“I think we will reach a stage where we will see logistical cooperation, where you’ll see Emirati companies bidding to run certain things, or Israeli technology being adopted here.”

He said Israel suspending its planned annexation of Palestinian land would stop the two-state solution being undermined, adding that a strategic breakthrough “will not happen overnight.”

“We will be there to help them,” Gargash said. “There will be a realization that the leverage that we have with countries like Bahrain and others have will actually help the Palestinians in impressing on the Israelis that a path forward needs compromises.”

For its part, Palestine, which has accused the Trump administration of pro-Israel bias, has condemned those normalizing ties with Israel as a betrayal of their cause. Palestine refused to take part in Trump’s Middle East peace initiative.

The UAE’s Gargash also suggested that talks were progressing on a potential arms sales with the United States.

“Our request for the F-35 and other systems predates this agreement,” he said. “This has been on the table for a much longer time,” Gargash added.

It comes after the Washington Post reported the proposed sale of the advanced U.S. fighter jets to the UAE was raising concerns among some security experts in Israel, fearing that the Middle East could be on the verge of an arms race.

“The F-16s that are the cornerstone of the UAE Air Force are now almost two decades old, and it is time to renew these, and our request has been there for a long time, Gargash said. “We will have to make compelling argument, and I believe that we will win that argument.”

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