Middle East Monitor / December 2, 2022
Far-right Otzma Yehudit Party leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, attended a UAE reception in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv, yesterday, despite a previous warning from the Abu-Dhabi against his inclusion in the government.
Ben-Gvir, who has become notorious for stoking settler violence in Occupied Jerusalem, was invited to the National Day event hosted by UAE Ambassador, Mohamed Al Khaja, at the Hilton hotel. The event marked the 51st anniversary of the unification of the seven emirates under the UAE.
Details of the event reported in Israeli sources said that Ben-Gvir shook hands with the UAE Ambassador during the event, which was also attended by presumed incoming Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The leader of the Israeli far-right Otzma Yehudit Party and a strong advocate of the illegal settlement enterprise stressed that it is possible to make peace with Arab states without making any concessions.
“Peace without concession” is a favourite line among the Israeli right. For decades, they have rejected peace offers, such as the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offered normalization for an end to Occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State. Israeli leaders from every major political party have rejected this offer and demanded peace on their terms. The so-called “Abraham Accords” was seen as a victory for Israeli intransigence.
“The event today teaches that it’s possible to make true peace without giving up territory and without surrendering to terror; just making peace between people who like each other, without making concessions,” Ben-Gvir is reported saying at the reception. He shared a photo of his meeting with the UAE Ambassador on social media.
In the lead up to the November Israeli election, when forecasters predicted huge electoral gains for the Israeli far-right, UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed (ABZ), expressed concern over the growing influence of Ben-Gvir, who brandished a gun threatening to shoot Palestinians and Bezalel Smotrich. Both far-right leaders have been given ministerial positions and their growing influence in the Israeli government has sparked concerns in Washington and elsewhere.
Abu Dhabi defended its decision to normalize relations with the Occupation State by insisting that it had prevented Israel from annexing the West Bank, a threat which Netanyahu, who was the Prime Minister at the time, had issued. Indications are that the current Israeli government will be going against this pledge. It is not clear what steps the UAE will take in response.