UAE-Israel accord creates ‘new environment’ for Mideast peace: Official

US President Donald Trump said he will host a similar peace-signing ceremony this week at the White House between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, which also announced an agreement with Israel. (AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2020

UAE-Israel accord creates ‘new environment’ for Mideast peace: Official

  • The UAE remains committed to the interests of the Palestinians and to the two-state solution.

CHICAGO: The historic accord between the UAE and Israel, which will be signed this week at the White House, will create a “new environment” to achieve peace, the director of policy planning at the Emirati Foreign Ministry told Arab News on Monday.

The UAE remains committed to the interests of the Palestinians and to the two-state solution, said Jamal Al-Musharakh, adding that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is achievable.

“We haven’t abandoned the Palestinians,” he said. “With the involvement of the US in this peace process, conversations can be more honest. Opportunities and differences can be discussed. This is the point of dialogue — that we can really get past previous lack of clarity.”

The entire region will benefit from the UAE-Israel accord.

“There’s much optimism and hope in this agreement,” Al-Musharakh said. “It’s a strategic shift. The deal provides a more optimistic view of the future, and will result in benefits for all in the region, including the Palestinians. But the Palestinians need to engage in the peace process themselves.”

The foundation of the accord is based on “optimism and hope,” he added. “The region needs hope. It has been through much turmoil and despair.”
 

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The accord “offers an opportunity for the Palestinians and the people of the Middle East to be able to look past previous pessimism and to have a more optimistic future,” he said.

The accord “will stand all challenges,” he said, adding that the UAE pursued it at the urging of leaders from the Middle East and the international community.

“The international community was concerned about Israel annexing Palestinian lands,” he said. “There was a lot of outreach to us to use our diplomatic efforts to reach a point that would preserve the two-state solution and thus halt annexation.”

The UAE-Israel deal comes 27 years almost to the day after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands on Sept. 13, 1993, at the White House.

US President Donald Trump said he will host a similar peace-signing ceremony this week at the White House between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, which also announced an agreement with Israel.

Al-Musharakh said he could not provide details of the signing, but emphasized that the UAE-Israel accord “creates an environment in the Middle East in which a genuine peace can be achieved.”

He added: “The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities. We expect to advance areas of education, health, business and the needs of the people, not just in the UAE but also in the region. This agreement is about the region.”

The UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and will host the global mega-event Expo 2020 Dubai, the opening of which has been delayed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

Expo officials said the new opening date is Oct. 1, 2021, and it will continue through March 2022. “Israel will be a part of Expo 2020, and we look forward to it,” Al-Musharakh said.

In announcing the Expo, the UAE has promised to focus on a collective desire for new thinking to identify solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our time. The peace accord comes as a result of that spirited thinking, he added.

“The accord has been met with broad international support. There’s clear recognition of our aim to safeguard the two-state solution and advance general prosperity,” he said.

“The message remains a hopeful one. The end solution lies in the hands of the Palestinians and Israelis themselves,” Al-Musharakh added.

“The UAE is committed, and always will be committed, to our longstanding commitment to the Palestinian people in advancing peace-making efforts to the region’s benefit,” he said.

“We’ll never abandon the Palestinians. They’re important and we support their rights. We stand by the two-state solution. We’re committed to Arab decisions about the Palestinians.”

The normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel is a historic step for progress in the region, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed meanwhile said, in a report from news channel Al-Arabiya on Tuesday.

The progress in establishing the Palestinian state is vital at this stage inasmuch as the agreement, which is about to be signed at the White House, stopped Israeli annexation activities in the West Bank, he added.

The White House said in a statement: “The Arab world is experiencing the most rapid geopolitical transformation in more than a generation.”

It added: “As more countries normalize relations with Israel, the region is becoming more stable, secure, and prosperous. Expanded business and financial ties between economies will accelerate growth and economic opportunity across the region. The United States will continue to stand with the people of the region as they work to build a brighter, more hopeful future.”


‘Worst debate ever’ — US expats lament lack of substance in Trump-Biden bust-up

Updated 9 min 34 sec ago

‘Worst debate ever’ — US expats lament lack of substance in Trump-Biden bust-up

  • Americans in the Gulf shocked by crosstalk, insults, mockery and lack of focus on policies during candidates’ first televised showdown
  • Any attempt at substantive exchanges on the main issues — the Supreme Court, COVID-19, race and violence, the economy, and the integrity of the election — were drowned out by acrimony

DUBAI: Americans living in the Gulf looked on, aghast, as personal insults flew back and forth between the two men who aspire to lead the US.

A chaotic 90 minutes of insults, temper tantrums, endless interruptions and attacks on an opponent’s family turned the first televised debate between Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden into the most acrimonious televised presidential head-to-head in US history.

Expatriates in the Middle East set their alarms for the early hours to watch what turned out to be a “dumpster fire” of a debate, as some commentators described it, unfold in Cleveland, Ohio.

“This debate completely lacked in substance, so how could an expat understand anything about Biden (or Trump’s) positions,” said Liberty Jones, who is from Washington D.C. and has lived in Dubai for eight years. “Aside from a quick discussion on how Trump is handling COVID, it was devoid of any depth on their approaches.”

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The debate was the first of three between the two candidates in the run up to election day on Nov. 3. Any attempt at substantive exchanges about the six main issues — the Supreme Court, COVID-19, race and violence in US cities, the economy, and the integrity of the election — were drowned out by acrimony.

“You’re the worst president that America ever had,” Biden told Trump. “In 47 months I’ve done more than you have done in 47 years,” Trump responded.

The moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, had to raise his voice on several occasions to demand that Trump respect the two-minute time allocated for uninterrupted answers to questions and let Biden speak. Biden also provided fuel for the fire with a series of personal attacks, calling Trump a liar and a racist.

Then there was Biden’s “inshallah” moment, which lit up Twitter across the Arab world. It came after Trump promised to release his still-hidden tax returns, some details of which were published by the New York Times last week. Biden sarcastically asked, “When?” followed by a word that many viewers thought sounded like “Inshallah,” meaning “God willing.”

Whether or not he actually uttered the familiar Arabic expression remains a mystery but it certainly caught the attention of American expats in the Gulf, some of whom feel distanced from the core issues of the election.

“As expats, we are naturally not as close to the candidates and their platforms,” said Jones, who is a public relations director for luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. “While we can consume news, we don’t have the benefit of our community and families sharing their perspectives on the candidates. This places greater weight on the debates to help expats understand the platforms and policies of the respective candidates.”

James Erazo Ruiz, a healthcare company director who lives in Abu Dhabi and describes himself as a Republican, said: “The American people are the losers of this debate.

“History tells us that presidential debates are not decision-making events. I hoped this one would be different but all we saw was name-calling and an insulting debacle that served no purpose.

“The debate was light on policy, issues and solutions. Quite frankly, it was the worse debate I have ever seen. It was a joke.”

Brian Raggott, who has worked in Dubai for nine years for an American IT company, said the debate reinforced the negative image of America outside of the US.

“America needs someone who can bring the country back together again and last night we didn’t see it,” he said. “As an American outside of the US, you want to bring American ideals wherever you go — and right now it’s a tough time.”

Ali Khalaf, who has lived in Dubai since 2007, sounded a slightly more optimistic note for the future of American politics. He said that he hopes the “disturbing” nature of the debate will shock more people into greater engagement with the political process.

“The hope that can be drawn from these debates is that we emerge from these elections with the desire to invest more in our nation’s choices,” he added.

The last topic of the debate, the integrity of the election, in particular struck a chord with Americans in the Gulf, many of whom said that despite submitting a request weeks ago they are still waiting to receive their absentee ballots.

Approximately 9 million Americans live overseas, according to 2016 figures from the US State Department. If they were considered to be a US state, it would rank as the 12th largest in population size, so they represent a powerful block of votes.

An anonymous US citizen living in Dubai, who declined to be named, said: “Americans abroad deserve to feel confident that our votes are accurately counted and protected from fraud. It’s strange to wait this long for a ballot — and then when it comes and we mail it in, can we trust that it will be counted appropriately?”

“Our votes absolutely count,” said Jean Candiotte, a creative director, writer and producer who has lived in Dubai for almost seven years. “This has the potential to be a close election, which means that every single vote is important.

“As Americans, we get to take our home country with us when we live overseas; we file and pay our home country’s taxes and we maintain the right to vote, and it’s important to exercise that right — it’s who we are as a nation.”