UAE Ambassador to Israel, Mohamed Al Khaja, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, and other officials press a button to start the stock exchange market during the opening ceremony of the Emirati embassy in Tel Aviv, 14 July, 2021. (Photo Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
The UAE Foreign Ministry ordered Emirati Ambassador to Israel Mohammed Al Khaja not to meet with any Israeli government officials or attend events where Israeli ministers and politicians will be present in response to inflammatory comments by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who this week said that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”
According to Saudi news outlet Elaph, Abu Dhabi is considering downgrading the level of its diplomatic representation in Israel.
UAE sources revealed to Elaph that officials in Abu Dhabi were taken aback by the lack of response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the face of provocative actions and violent rhetoric from his Jewish supremacist allies.
Emirati officials reportedly view the actions of senior Israeli officials as “harming the stability of the region, inflaming hatred, and serving only extremists.”
The report adds that Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco are also considering reducing diplomatic ties with Israel.
Smotrich’s comments created a diplomatic firestorm for Israel, as several of the country’s allies strongly rebuked his statements.
“Hate speech and violence should be confronted, and values of tolerance and human coexistence should be promoted to reduce escalation and instability in the region,” the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We found those comments to not only be inaccurate but also deeply concerning and dangerous,” US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Tuesday. Similarly, EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell called Smotrich’s comments “unacceptable,” “disrespectful,” and “dangerous.”
Saudi Arabia also slammed Smotrich’s words as “offensive and racist,” deeming them “hateful and violent speech.”
“Is there a Palestinian history or culture? No … After 2,000 years of exile, the people of Israel were returning home, and there were Arabs around [us] who do not like it … So what do they do? They invent a fictitious people in the land of Israel and claim fictitious rights in the land of Israel just to fight the Zionist movement,” Smotrich said in Paris last week.
The Israeli finance minister made these comments while standing on a podium featuring a map that included Jordan, parts of Syria and Saudi Arabia, and the occupied Palestinian territories as part of Israel.
Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, gave a speech in front of a podium featuring a map that included Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
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In response, the Jordanian government accused him of violating the 1994 peace treaty and summoned the Israeli ambassador for consultations.
Smotrich – who is also responsible for the civil administration in the occupied West Bank – also came under fire earlier this month after he called for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be “wiped out.”
“The Palestinian village of Huwara should be wiped out. The state needs to do it and not private citizens,” Smotrich said in a forum hosted by the Marker business newspaper on 1 March.
Huwara was the site of a pogrom carried out by Israeli settlers with the support of the Israeli army last month. One Palestinian was killed, nearly 400 were injured, and dozens of homes and vehicles were set ablaze.