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Saudi Arabia is ‘white whale’ of Middle East accords: Israeli official

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Officials in Israel have excessive hopes for budding ties with the United Arab Emirates because the nation’s parliament on Monday ratified the historic deal establishing diplomatic relations between the 2 international locations for the primary time.  

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum is certainly one of them. Co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, she spoke to CNBC’s Capital Connection in regards to the enterprise alternatives made potential by the deal, often known as the Abraham Accord. 

“People are just so excited for this peace … the reception we’ve received here is unprecedented,” Hassan-Nahoum mentioned. “The Israeli side is really curious about the UAE, the Emiratis, and vice versa.” 

“On the Israeli side, Dubai, the UAE can be a gateway to the East … the UAE is very interested in Israel’s innovative spirit, the start-up nation, innovative technologies from here that can help them, help their exports,” she mentioned, naming farming and meals tech among the many sectors the place she noticed potential. 

Will Saudi Arabia observe go well with?

The Palestinian authorities within the West Bank doesn’t share that optimism. Left out of the deal’s building, the Palestinian Authority known as it “despicable” and “a betrayal.” Regional analysts say that whereas the deal quickly halted Israeli annexations of Palestinian territories, it despatched the message that Israel could make main progress in its relations with Arab international locations with out having to surrender any land it is secured within the occupied territories. 

This continued pressure is what poses an impediment to different Arab international locations following the UAE’s lead, however that may not be for lengthy: inside weeks of the Abraham Accord’s announcement in August, Bahrain joined as effectively. 

Asked whether or not she foresaw a region-wide shift, Hassan-Nahoum mentioned: “I really believe there is a momentum and I hope the momentum continues. It started with the UAE, followed by Bahrain, there were rumors about Oman, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, which I think is the big white whale in this story.”

A white whale is a metaphor used to explain one thing that’s extremely coveted or pursued, however exhausting to attain.

Saudi Arabia’s response to the UAE-Israel information was initially muted, with the dominion’s overseas minister later stating that it could not set up its personal diplomatic ties with Israel till the nation signed an internationally-recognized peace settlement with the Palestinians. Still, intelligence cooperation between Israel and the dominion has been an open secret for a while as they share a standard adversary in Iran.  

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed show their copies of signed agreements as they take part within the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, normalizing relations between Israel and a few of its Middle East neighbors, in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern international locations in opposition to Iran, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2020.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

“I really do believe that when people see what normalization looks like, when they see that there can be mutual prosperity … it will help bring peace generally across the Gulf, not just with specific countries,” Hassan-Nahoum mentioned.

Jared Kushner and U.S. election anticipation

The dialog got here because the UAE and Israel launched talks on diplomatic, financial and enterprise relations. The settlement, brokered by President Donald Trump’s administration, made the UAE the primary Gulf nation to ascertain ties with Israel and was the primary such accord for the area in additional than 20 years. 

It additionally comes simply weeks earlier than the U.S. presidential election. Asked if the election outcome may derail the momentum for diplomatic reconciliation, Hassan-Nahoum was optimistic, however admitted that Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner’s function in spearheading the accord was important to that momentum. 

“Joe Biden came out and he was very supportive of the deal,” the deputy mayor mentioned. “My only concern is that — everybody knows — Jared Kushner was really the architect of this. He took this and put 100% of his attention and efforts into this. I’m concerned that if there is no Jared involved here then the momentum might slow down.” 

“But let’s see what happens,” she added. “Certainly from Israel we’ll keep our arms open and hope that this continues.”

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