June 7, 2021 — Dubai
His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, addressed today a worldwide audience participating in the 2021 American Jewish Committee Virtual Global Forum. The Global Forum is the leading global Jewish advocacy organization’s premier annual event.
In a conversation with Jason Isaacson, AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer, the foreign minister discussed the historic Abraham Accords, UAE-U.S. relations, prospects for advancing Arab-Israeli peace, and the threat of extremism. Isaacson has spearheaded the leading global Jewish advocacy organization’s engagement with the UAE and other Gulf Arab states over the past 25 years. He has met with Sheikh Abdullah on multiple occasions.
The minister’s remarks came shortly after AJC announced the opening of its first office in an Arab country, in Abu Dhabi. “We are thrilled to have you. We will do anything possible to make your presence here worthwhile,” he said. “Hopefully, your presence in the UAE is part of our journey, part of changing mindsets.”
“The welcome – in fact, the encouragement – given us to open an office in the UAE has been yet another example of Emirati leadership, its pursuit of regional peace, and its commitment to interfaith understanding and cooperation,” Isaacson remarked.
Sheikh Abdullah stressed the pandemic created an opportunity for the breakthrough in UAE-Israel diplomatic relations. “There is recognition that science will play a much bigger role in our thinking going forward. It is only possible when you have successful technological countries, like the UAE and Israel, in the region come together. Such a partnership was due, but COVID has made us move in that direction much faster.”
The foreign minister pointed out that the Abraham Accords also were made possible because “Israel made the right decision” on annexation.
And, as with the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties with Israel, he affirmed the Abraham Accords would not have been reached without the United States. “We should all be very grateful for the U.S. role.”
Peace between the UAE and Israel will be “a people-to-people relationship,” evidenced already in the visits of thousands of Israeli tourists and widening cooperation between university researchers in both countries. “Let’s keep encouraging the people between our two nations because that’s the only way we can show both Israelis and Palestinians this is a way forward where we can all live, not only in peace, but where we thrive,” he said.
“I really hope the Abraham Accords can excite the people of the region. This goes beyond peace. It goes to a point where we are partners in seeing a better future for our kids,” he declared. To advance Israeli-Palestinian peace “requires leadership and parties understanding what is valuable. This has been missing.”
On U.S.-UAE relations, Sheikh Abdullah emphasized that “The U.S. is definitely a friend, a partner that we rely on, not only for security, but in science, technology.”
He encouraged the U.S. to stay engaged with the Middle East, noting that Secretary of State Blinken is very active in the region. “I’m thrilled the U.S. still sees value in engaging Israelis and Palestinians, but it will require strategic thinking on both sides” for progress.
“This is a region of opportunity and hope,” said Sheikh Abdullah. In October, the UAE will host Dubai Expo, with more than 190 countries participating, including Israel and the U.S. It will be the first time a Muslim-majority country hosts such an event.
On the issue of extremism, the foreign minister expressed concern about the threats posed by radical groups and ideologies, and the way governments across the region and around the world have been responding. “Our threshold in challenging extremism and radical ideas has not been appropriate,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “Extremism cannot be acceptable. Hate cannot be acceptable. Making excuses for violence cannot be acceptable.”
In a clear reference to Hezbollah and the European Union, he expressed concern that “countries don’t talk about Hamas, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood in a clearer matter,” and that some governments designate a group’s military, not political, wing while that “same entity doesn’t make any distinction.”
“The question we don’t ask enough is how much are we doing in addressing extremism throughout the world,” he said. Emiratis and others in the region are “concerned that our kids are radicalized in European capitals.”