Israel-UAE ties are strong counter to Iranian ambitions
Opinion: Jerusalem-Abu Dhabi relations are built on mutual interests, including facing the threat posed by Tehran as it seeks to consolidate regional power through its proxies in oil-rich Yemen province; increased Israeli ties in Gulf would help to challenge this
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday(Photo: EPA / Emirates News Agency)
In order to understand the relationship between Israel and parts of the Arab world, including the UAE, one must look to Yemen.
A crucial battle has been raging there in recent weeks over control of the Marib province – where Yemen’s oil deposits are located – and the city of Marib in its center.
The fall of the province would be a serious blow to Yemen’s rulers who are backed by Saudi Arabia, which has been trying hard to prevent such a calamity.
It would also constitute a strategic win for Iran, which has already secured its territorial continuity to the north, including Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. A victory by its Houthi proxies in Marib would provide territorial continuity in the south as well.
The fall of the province would also cause problems for Iran’s foes Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. A stronger and more emboldened Iran would also be extremely problematic for Israel.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s visit to the UAE this week has no direct bearing on the events in Marib but does further strategic cooperation with countries in the Gulf.
According to foreign media reports, Israel became tangentially involved in the fighting in Yemen when in April, the Iranian vessel MV Saviz was damaged in an Israeli attack.
The vessel, belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was a floating base of operations providing military support for the pro-Iranian Houthi insurgents in Yemen.
In June another Iranian vessel, this time a cargo ship reported to be carrying supplies for the Houthi forces, was also attacked. That too was attributed to Israel.
Israeli-UAE relations are built on mutual interests including (but not exclusively) the threat posed by Iran.
With the remnants of the Yemini Jewish community in need of rescue, the UAE has stepped in to help.
And even before the signing of the Abraham Accords in September, Jews living in the UAE said there were no anti-Semitic sentiments there.
Though not a democracy and a place where dissidents are not treated well, the UAE is seen as surprisingly promoting tolerance. It even has a government ministry dedicated to it.
All faiths are protected by the regime, making the UAE a pioneer among Muslim nations where Israel’s flag proudly flies.
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a considerable role in reviving the relations with the UAE but the emirate was more willing than others in Muslim world to have warm ties with Israel.
If there were any concern that the new U.S. administration or the new Israeli government would in any way harm the relations advanced by Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, Lapid’s visit clearly demonstrates that that is not the case.
Mutual concerns over Iran’s increased hegemony in the region and Qatari support for it will only ensure the new-old ties remain strong.