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Friday, October 26, 2007

UAE and Israel

It has been interesting to note the absence of comment in the UAE press (in English and what I have been able to see of the Arabic titles) about the US's Annapolis peace conference in November, other than the usual stuff about the need for a serious conference, not a US sponsored photo op. In the western and Arab media several candidates for participation in the peace conference have been proffered. Egypt and Jordan already have formal peace deals with Israel of course, and major financial subventions from the US as well as a strategic alignment. The latest from Cairo is that they will be there. Jordan maintains full level diplomatic representation with Israel and thus can hardly be expected to be absent. Morocco and Qatar have been suggested, two countries that have low level relations with Israel, as does Oman that gets mentioned less often as a possible attendee. Saudi blows hot and cold, but can hardly be expected to blow out the US as long as Abbas is there - and he has nowhere else to go. Syria, with more important business to attend to in Lebanon, has been begrudgingly given an indirect US invite with Saudi, and no doubt UAE, encouragement, but seems unlikely to bite. Bahrain has stepped up de facto normalisation in recent weeks. This more or less leaves the UAE. It is a member of the so-called Arab Quartet together with Egypt, Saudi and Jordan, which meets periodically with Condi to express concerns on the peace process and swap intel stories. While not exactly a normalisation with Israel vehicle, the AQ was encouraged by the Americans and the Saudis as the way to bring major Arab players half way to the table with Israel in order to encourage Israeli movement in their direction too. This was about Palestine but also about containing the common enemy Iran. The partial reaching out to Israel fitted with the Saudi Peace Plan under which Riyadh offered Israel a warm peace in exchange for Palestine, more or less lock stock and barrel on 1967 lines. While the virtual flirting continues in the run up to Annapolis, Condi is trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians (with Arab connivance) to agree an outline that would nail down some principles for a final status deal and offer some kind of timetable (don't say "roadmap") for getting there. This is pleasing the Saudis, but what does the UAE government think? Is there an alignment of view between the key players (player?) in Abu Dhabi and the singular leadership in Dubai? Of this we hear nothing, nada, zilch, nil, sifr, walla ish. This from a country that has built homes in Gaza, discussed buying the old settlements there, and over the longer term held credibility among Palestinians for its "steadfast" position over the historic Question. My guess is they can't fail to come to the Annapolis ball. They were at Madrid after all, but they are they not yet being named as possible attendees at this multilateral bash. What has been said to the roving "peaceniks" Condi and Blair in Abu Dhabi to suggest a coolness about Annapolis that is greater than their Arab brethren? Could it be that the long standing and still close relationship with the largely ostracised Syria is encouraging caution by the UAE?

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