Palestinians stand to reap major benefits from Israel’s peace agreements with the Arab world, the Jewish state’s first official ambassador in the Gulf has claimed, as he began his historic posting in Abu Dhabi.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Eitan Na’eh, the new Israeli ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, said the accords could lead to major investments in Arab-majority towns in Israel and in East Jerusalem, the home of many Palestinians.
“When you connect the dots from the Emirates to Israel there are a few more people along the way, and Palestinians are on the way, and will be there to benefit,” he said.
Signed in September on the lawns of the White House, the Abraham accords set up full diplomatic ties between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as direct flights and a raft of trade deals.
Israeli officials say one of their major goals is to bring more wealth to the Arab population on their side and heal tensions between Jews and Muslims, though Palestinian leaders have strongly condemned the treaty as act of betrayal.
“It’s early now but when you...create jobs, and people are starting to work together, rather than against each other, the increase in trade and investments in areas such as infrastructure, energy, [it] will affect Palestinians too,” Mr Na’eh said.
The Ambassador’s remarks are likely to irritate Palestinian leaders, who have described the peace deals as a “stab in the back” that, they say, severely undermined their hopes for a viable Palestinian state.
They comes as the International Criminal Court has ruled that it has jurisdiction over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for the tribunal to open a war crimes investigation into Israel.
Mr Na’eh also claimed that he even received a call from a Palestinian business owner from Nablus, in the West Bank, who asked to be connected with investors.
“People are calling, telling me, ‘Ambassador I am from Nablus, can we be in touch, I’ve got some business propositions” he said.
“It’s getting across the message that this peace is not just between leaders [but] a peace between people. The spectrum of that is evident. We are discussing dozens of areas of cooperation in various fields at a pace not known before.”
Since signing the accords, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have created a network of trade bodies to foster investment and business partnerships.
Last week, the Dubai government released figures from September 2020 to January 2021, claiming trade between the new allies had reached nearly £200m and around 6.2k tonnes in goods.
Some of the projects hope to inject wealth into East Jerusalem, which is controlled by Israel but claimed by the Palestinians as their own capital.
A former ambassador to Turkey, Mr Nae’h is no stranger to navigating the choppy waters of Israel’s relations with Muslim countries.
In 2018 he was abruptly expelled by Ankara during a flare-up of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas militant group.
He is likely to require a substantial security team in the United Arab Emirates, amid fears that Iran-funded terror groups are plotting to infiltrate the Gulf state to launch an attack on the embassy.
But the veteran diplomat says he wants Arab critics of Israeli to realise that he has the Palestinians’ best interests at heart.
“I’m also pro-Palestinian. I wish them to live in peace, security and prosperity, so winning the hearts and minds is through cooperation and building bridges of peace, which is my mission here in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
Palestinian officials, along with Turkey and Iran, reject this claim. They say that the new friendship between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain spells disaster for people in the West Bank.
This is partly because the Palestinian leadership has long argued that Arab nations should only embrace the Jewish state after the creation of a Palestinian state.