Stopping sovereignty moves was “prerequisite” for normalization, the official said, and confirms that F-35 sale was not part of the deal.
https://www.jpost.com-By LAHAV HARKOV
“One of the prerequisites of the commencing of bilateral relations was the halting of annexation,” al-Musharakh said, and the UAE has “assurances from key leaders in the US and Israel” on the matter.
After Israeli media outlets, including The Jerusalem Post reported that al-Musharakh said annexation would not stop normalization, the UAE Foreign Ministry clarified that their opposition to such moves has not changed.
And during the briefing, al-Musharakh said the UAE “remains with the Arab consensus and resolutions pertaining to [the Palestinians]. We have not backed out even an inch from our position.”
Al-Musharakh spoke with journalists at the Presidential Airport in the UAE as the first official Israeli delegation to the country, led by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, came to a close. A day earlier, the first-ever direct flight from an Israeli airline, El Al, landed in that airport; it was also the first Israeli flight over Saudi Arabia.
The delegation came after Israel and the UAE announced on August 13 that they were normalizing ties, marking the third time an Arab country made peace with Israel. The Israeli and Emirati delegations held roundtable discussions on a broad range of topics such as health, tourism and finance to bring normalization into fruition, and a first agreement between the countries to free up obstacles to investments was signed on Tuesday.
Al-Musharakh argued that ties with Israel benefit the entire region, including the Palestinians.
“There is room for innovation and education and a future for youth not to grow up in an area of conflict,” he said. “There are too many conflicts in the region and it is high time to look forward to sustainable ways forward and hope for the future.”
The Emirati official confirmed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s account that the sale of F-35 stealth jets was not related to ties with Israel.
“It was not by any means the driver of this,” al-Musharakh said, and opposed a journalist’s characterization of the matter as an “irritant” in the normalization process.
The purchase of the F-35s is “a legitimate, longstanding request we have. We see them as legitimate.”
Netanyahu has voiced his opposition to such a sale, citing concerns about maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.
Earlier on Tuesday, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met Emirati military officials at the UAE’s Al Dhafra air base, where the US keeps some of its F-35 advanced stealth warplanes, highlighting the UAE’s years-long drive to obtain the aircraft.
A UAE official said the visit to the Emirati air base near Abu Dhabi, which the US also uses, was not related to the F-35 issue, while another praised three decades of US-UAE military cooperation.
“Our relationship has been built on trust and mutual support,” Maj.-Gen. Falah al-Qahtani told reporters. “We have stood together to fight extremism in all of its forms.”
Al-Musharakh also responded to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s remarks that normalization with Israel is a “betrayal” and “the Emiratis will be disgraced forever,” saying: “The path to peace and prosperity is not in hate speech.”
“That kind of message runs counter to a forward-looking view for the region,” he added.
As for the normalization talks, al-Musharakh said things are moving “at a healthy pace,” but it is hard to determine at this point when embassies will open or when a signing ceremony in the US will take place.
When there is a UAE embassy in Israel, it will be in Tel Aviv, he said.
The discussions, which took place in Abu Dhabi on Monday and Tuesday, have been “promising,” and “prove that the path towards peace and prosperity is through partnership and cooperation,” al-Musharakh added.
“There is a large demographic of youth in the region that needs hope, a way forward,” he said.
Al-Musharakh said Israeli-Emirati cooperation, such as on fighting COVID-19, could benefit the entire world, not just the two countries.
Kushner expressed hope to the UAE’s WAM news agency that another Arab country could establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the coming months, and he “100 percent” thinks all 22 Arab states could recognize Israel in the future.
“I think, thanks to the UAE leadership, there will be a much bigger coalition, what I call a ‘vocal majority’ that will be in favor of normalizing,” he said. “The vocal minority who have been against it will be more and more isolated in the region.”
Also Tuesday, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz said regular direct flights between Israel and the UAE may begin in the coming weeks.
“We need to get this done quickly because both sides want it, but also because this should be a peace agreement whose benefits are felt in people’s daily lives,” he told Army Radio.
Ushpiz also said that opening embassies is a “top priority” that should happen “quickly.”
Reuters contributed to this report.