Hours after Israel’s president arrived in Abu Dhabi, marking the first ever visit of its kind, Yemeni resistance movement Ansarallah fired ballistic missiles at targeted sites in the UAE’s capital.
Any question as to how the Houthis will respond to Israel’s military and logistical role in the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen was answered by a few well-timed projectiles. The question now is, how will each side respond?
Israel’s highest officials have been flocking to Abu Dhabi in abundance these days. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit last month was followed, on Sunday, by the jarring spectacle of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s plane crossing Saudi airspace – a video of which was beamed to social media in a jiffy – before landing at Abu Dhabi’s airport.
There, Herzog was greeted by no less a personage than Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ), Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces.
This visit, which Herzog described as “historic,” comes just days after the UAE was bombarded with ballistic missiles and drones by Yemen, in retaliatory strikes. The Emirati defense systems, ground and air, failed to confront most of the projectiles, which is why air navigation at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports were briefly disrupted, and fuel tanks exploded at a refinery belonging to giant oil company ADNOC.
Since the signing of the September 2020 Abraham Accords under intense US pressure, Israelis have lined up in droves to visit the UAE, which has admitted more than two hundred thousand Israelis to date.
The Israeli visitors, it transpires, created more problems than the profits and gains made by the host country. Hebrew newspapers have extensively documented their shenanigans, which include theft, fraud, drugs, and money laundering in the Emirates.
But Herzog is on no ‘apology tour.’ Instead, what was remarkable were his remarks on the battle in Yemen, a brutal war co-launched by his Emirati hosts. The Israeli president seemed keen to “condemn the Houthi missile attacks that targeted the UAE, condemn any attack on its sovereignty by terrorist groups, and affirm their readiness to respond to its security requirements.”
We do not know what the Israeli occupation state thinks it can provide to protect the UAE, its security, and its stability – or how it believes it can succeed where the US and its NATO allies have failed.
When Ansarallah’s ballistic missiles on 24 January targeted the Al Dhafra base in Abu Dhabi, home to 3,500 American and British soldiers and tens of missile systems for US Patriot batteries and their more advanced THAAD systems, these soldiers fled to shelters for safety.
The Israeli army, whose government boasts that it cannot be defeated, was defeated and humiliated several times: the first in 2000 when it fled from southern Lebanon, unilaterally, without an agreement; the second, in the South Lebanon war of July 2006; the third, in May 2021’s Battle of the Sword of Jerusalem, when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begged US President Joe Biden to mediate with the Egyptian government to intervene to stop the war on its eleventh day.
Can this army, which is more than 1,500 kilometers away from Abu Dhabi, protect the Emirates and provide it with security and stability? Will it confront the imagined Iranian “aggression,” as Israeli officials claim and pledge?
Tel Aviv sells an illusion to the UAE and other Arab countries that have signed peace agreements with it. Under the facade of ‘peace,’ Israel engages with Arabs mockingly – focused on exploiting every advantage via blackmail, theft, threat and bluster.
In the UAE’s case, Israel works to dispel a double concern – the first for some Emiratis, and the second for most Israelis – which is the growing strength of the region’s Axis of Resistance and its massive and advanced military and missile capabilities.
On Sunday, Israeli military analyst Alon Ben David revealed in a Maariv article why the Israeli government rejected a $3.5 billion arms deal to the UAE – including the transfer of the “Iron Dome” and “David’s Sling.” Put simply, Tel Aviv feared the leaking of these sensitive systems technologies to Iran and Yemen’s Houthis. The UAE has since headed to South Korea in search of alternatives.
This refusal means, at first glance, that the Israeli “ally” does not trust his Emirati counterpart, or his ability to protect himself and preserve these systems and their secrets. It is not to say that Tel Aviv expects Abu Dhabi to hand over its secrets; rather, Israel doesn’t exclude the possibility of an invasion and occupation of the Emirates by a third party, which could then commandeer the Israeli military systems and decipher its technological secrets.
There is another reason for Tel Aviv’s block on the weapons transfer that should not be ignored: Israel’s leadership does not want to directly and publicly involve itself in the Yemen war. It is well aware that providing any notable military or security assistance to the Emirates could result in Ansarallah retaliatory missile responses in the depths of Israel or on its ships in the Red Sea, through which 80 percent of its exports pass.
The distance between Sanaa and Abu Dhabi (1500 km) is the same between Saada and Eilat, and whomever can hit one, will not hesitate to hit the other, if the situation demands.
On Monday, the Israeli president is supposed to inaugurate his country’s pavilion at the ‘Expo 2020’ in Dubai. This highly-hyped Emirati exhibition, according to some Ansarallah spokesmen, is one of the expected targets of missile strikes – if the UAE continues to intervene in two crucial battles in the Marib and Shabwah governorates.
The United Arab Emirates has committed two strategic mistakes. The first, is its involvement in the Yemen war seven years ago. The second, is in signing the Abraham Accords and normalizing relations with the Israeli occupation state.
If the first mistake drained it financially and morally, the second one has created an existential threat for its security and stability.
Simply put, the UAE has placed bad bets on worse allies – successive Israeli defeats, the imminent US withdrawal from West Asia after its humiliating exit from Afghanistan, and the approaching settlement of the Vienna nuclear negotiations – which, negative or positive, will not hinder Iran’s regional trajectory one bit.