UAE tightens embrace of Israel as annexation looms

Emirati minister Anwar Gargash speaks to Jason Isaacson, chief political affairs officer at the American Jewish Committee, during the Israel lobby group’s annual global forum, 16 June

Tamara Nassar writes in Electronic Intifida, 28 June 2020

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have announced they will be cooperating on research to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

The move can be seen as further encouragement to Israel to charge ahead with the annexation of occupied Palestinian land with the assurance that it will face no real repercussions from friendly regional governments.

Two Emirati companies reached an agreement with two Israeli counterparts to conduct research. None has been named.

“The health ministers of the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel will announce cooperation in the fight against coronavirus,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during an Israel air force graduation ceremony on Thursday.

“This cooperation will be in research and technology development, in areas that will improve the health security of the entire region.”

Hend Al Otaiba, spokesperson for the UAE foreign ministry, also announced the deal on Twitter, suggesting a coordinated public relations effort by the two friendly governments.

The UAE and Israel have no formal diplomatic relations, but covert ties go back decades.

In recent weeks, two Etihad Airways flights traveled directly from the UAE to Israel supposedly carrying coronavirus aid for Palestinians.

These are the only known flights by a commercial airline to travel directly between the two countries.

Gulf states and Israel have exploited the coronavirus pandemic to nurture their increasingly close relationship.

The announcement comes days before Israel is expected to move forward with steps to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank.

It also comes a couple of weeks after Emirati ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba warned that annexation would set back normalization of ties with Israel.

But that “warning” came laced with enticements and offers to Israel of further normalization.

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