Netanyahu Won: World Demanded Israel Make Peace, Now It Just Begs It Not to Annex

History was made Friday on the front page of Israeli tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth. A senior official of a Gulf state, UAE ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba, penned a direct appeal to the Israeli public, along with a heartfelt video message. Please, he appealed, don’t annex any of the occupied territory in the West Bank.

“Annexation will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with UAE,” Al Otaiba wrote. In separate interview with Abu Dhabi-based The National, he spoke movingly of “all the progress and the attitude shift that you have seen, people being less hostile to Israel,” which “could be undermined by the decision to annex.”

He singled out the landing this week of a Boeing 787 wearing the colors of the UAE’s Etihad Airways at Ben-Gurion Airport. He also mentioned the recent participation of Israeli athletes in sporting competitions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Annexation, he warned “will make a lot of those things more difficult.”

“Normal is not annexation,” Al Otaiba wrote. “Instead, annexation is a misguided provocation of another order. And continued talk of normalisation would be just mistaken hope for better relations with the Arab states.”

The ambassador’s warning came with a tree-full of olive leaves. It was hard to avoid the conclusion that without annexation, normalization can go full steam ahead.

He paid lip service to the UAE’s continuing support for the Palestinian people and the 18-year-old Arab Peace Initiative, which envisages full relations with Israel only when it retreats from all the territory captured in the Six-Day War, including East Jerusalem. But he was very clear that this can wait. For now, all Israel needs to do is continue the military occupation, without annexing, and normalization can proceed apace.

The ambassador’s intervention came just a couple of days after the visit to Israel and Jordan by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Despite being Israel's ally, Germany, under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, has been outspoken in its criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s West Bank policies. No longer. Maas came to Jerusalem to warn the government against pursuing annexation. But he was wary. Some European countries, he said, would move to sanction Israel if it went ahead. But not Germany.