Following the recent visit of Emirati Foreign Minister 'Abdullah Bin Zayed Aal Nahyan to Israel, Emirati journalist and analyst Salem Al-Ketbi addressed this visit and its significance in his column on the liberal website Elaph. This visit, he wrote, proves that the peace agreement between the two countries is not just on paper. Rather, both countries wish to build on it, and the UAE is deeply convinced that it will benefit the region at large. The peace agreement and the cooperation with Israel, he added, must be understood in the context of the strategic changes and the deepening crises in the world, which have led the UAE to realize that past solutions are no longer valid and that initiative must be taken to find new options and solutions. Al-Ketbi called to realize that Israel today is a normal country that seeks growth, development and stability, so it is no longer reasonable to treat it with hostility. In light of the geopolitical situation in the world and the regional crises, he concluded, the time has come to stop wallowing in the past and focus instead on the good of the young generation, which has almost lost hope in the future.
Salem Al-Ketbi (Source: Twitter.com/drsalemketb
The following are translated excerpts from his column:
"I have recently been following a lot of what has been written about UAE-Israel relations and the many reactions to the important visit to Israel made by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister 'Abdullah Bin Zayed Aal Nahyan. The debate on Arab social media, now that two years have passed since the signing of the Abraham Peace Accords, leads to several conclusions. First, that this agreement was not just a formality, forgotten as soon as it was signed, but rather the first step towards establishing normal relations with Israel. The visit itself reflects the Emirati vision of its relations with its economic and strategic ally, Israel. It conveyed a clear and emblematic message, namely that the UAE did not make peace with Israel just for the sake of a photo-op, but out of absolute conviction that this move is beneficial and will have an essential and significant impact on the future of the region.
"The second thing [the visit reflects] is that the relations between the UAE and Israel are proceeding on a different path and are characterized by active mutuality, so much so that they have become a reality in the regional geopolitical arena. It reflects that there is a mutual desire to expand these relations. The debate surrounding these relations shows that they have an impact on the region, because the transition from a cold peace to real peace means discarding the past and starting to think of the future and seek new forms of cooperation that will benefit the peoples and strengthen coexistence and stability in the region. The visit, which lasted several days and was made by Aal Nahyan along with a high-ranking economic and political delegation, reflects the importance [of the relations between the two countries] and shows that there is a work-plan that the Emiratis want to discuss [with the Israelis]. It shows that the Abraham Accords herald a different kind of relationship between Israel and its Arab and regional surroundings, and that peace is not just slogans and empty talk…
"As one who follows this issue, I am not troubled by the controversy over the Abraham Accords. I view this visit from a different perspective, which sees how Emirati diplomacy continues to take the initiative on the regional level, and proceeds on the path it has chosen for itself, while disregarding irrational considerations. The geopolitical situation in the world no longer allows us to stand idly by, amid the accelerated strategic shifts taking place on all levels. Tackling the deepening economic, security, and political crises in the world requires [finding new] solutions and options, beyond the traditional solutions and considerations that have proven to be ineffective.
"Israel [too] is no longer what it used to be. Today's Israel is not the same as yesterday's, and that is a truth that must be recognized. It has begun to think and behave like a normal country that seeks to invest its abilities and resources in growth, development and the preservation of its security and stability. Its international relations have changed in many ways, mainly for reasons having to do with the unexpected shifts in the global geopolitical situation. Therefore, it is unreasonable to continue seeing it through the prism of past slogans and extremist ideas that focus on national or ethnic identity and reject coexistence and tolerance – [especially] when the proponents of those [extremist] ideas are in conflict with their own people and coreligionists, for various different reasons!
"To understand the above, we must notice how the extremist factions and organizations [such as the Palestinian ones] are in a constant state of conflict with their own people as part of a struggle for hegemony and influence. We must also examine the countries that claim to be hostile to Israel for religious and ideological reasons [such as Iran], and look at their relations with their neighbors and with other countries, whether sharing their religion or not, and see how they occupy the land of other countries and justify this in various ways, while condemning this when other countries do it.
"To avoid being misunderstood, let me say that the point here is not to legitimize one case [of occupation while rejecting] another. The Palestinians have legitimate rights, just like the UAE and its people have a legitimate claim to the three islands [occupied by Iran]. There is no difference.
"I do not wish to dive into the depths of the past. The great woes of our region are the result of living in the past and hanging on to its slogans, when the thing we most need is to look to the future… [We must adopt] a perspective that does not ignore the past but which focuses on the present and is oriented towards the future, and takes a rational view of the tens of millions of young people in our region who are gradually losing their faith in tomorrow. [These young people] are looking for a glimmer of light that will give them the strength to hold onto life and not fall prey to terror organizations, board the illegal boats of death [i.e., refugee boats] or succumb to drugs."
 Elaph.com, September 28, 2022.