Dr. Salem Al Ketbi
Dr. Salem Al KetbiCourtesy

Against the backdrop of the visit of HH Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor, to Iran, where he will meet with President Ibrahim Raisi and senior officials of the country, some Israeli media speculate whether this rapprochement will come at the expense of UAE-Israel relations. Some fear that it could undermine the peace and progress being built for more than a year under the Abraham Agreement.

The scene is reminiscent of Iran’s official fury when the UAE signed the peace agreement with Israel. The Iranians fiercely questioned the goals of that agreement and the intentions of both sides. Nonetheless, and objectively, the Israeli reaction to the official dialogue between the UAE and Iran was more mature and calm.

The debate was limited to the media and some articles and reports published by Israeli websites and newspapers. The UAE’s new strategic approach towards Iran should not worry Israel, just as the signing of the peace agreement was far from the accusations and speculations raised. The peace with Israel is not aimed at Iran.

Similarly, a possible rapprochement with Iran does not jeopardize the priority of peace with Israel for the UAE. All that comes up in this context are scenarios that are present only in the minds of their owners and are not based on the facts on which the relations of the states are based.

Certainly, rapprochement with Iran does not eliminate the reality and sensitivities on which the relations of the two states are based. It goes beyond that to find common ground and try to use it in the interest of both sides. It provides the regional security and stability that the UAE development process needs.

I think this is also true for the Iranian regime. Similarly, the nature of the UAE’s relationship with Iran is fundamentally different from the nature of the relationship and ambitions that bind the UAE to Israel. The former appears to have been stable for a long time, at least in economic terms.

Cooperation with Israel is still in its infancy. Ambitions remain high as aspirations, capabilities, and resources fuel optimism about the future of this cooperation. The UAE’s new strategic focus, whether on Turkey, Iran, or Syria, has an interest in cooling crises and reducing tensions throughout the region.

The UAE’s new strategic focus, whether on Turkey, Iran, or Syria, has an interest in cooling crises and reducing tensions throughout the region.
This is in the interest of all societies, including the Israeli people. No one wants to hear news about wars and conflicts. Everyone’s dream is a world without bullets, where societies live together in a climate of tolerance and togetherness.

There is no doubt that establishing relations with two opponents from opposite camps is not the UAE’s business. International relations are not governed by a “with-or-against” rule, which contradicts the actual reality of interdependence and overlapping strategic interests, so this limiting notion is hardly applicable.

It is more feasible that a strategic balance can be found between opposites without the relationship with one party or the other being affected by what is happening at the other party. Israel maintains established strategic alliance relations with the US. However, it has broadened and deepened its conciliatory relations with China and Russia, strategic rivals of the US.

One of these rivals, China, has become a major concern of Washington in light of its accelerated international rise, challenging the weight of the US position in the existing world order. After all, an advance in the UAE’s relations with Iran will not necessarily have a negative impact on the balance of relations with Israel. The opposite is also true.

Any objective observer of international relations knows that the UAE’s signing of the peace agreement with Israel was not motivated by strategic antagonism to Iran. The proof is that the joint agreements and cooperation protocols signed between the two countries were mainly in the fields of technology, science, research, trade, investment and economy.

There is also a common and undeniable desire to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that the new spaces of cooperation and peace offer to businesses and investors on both sides.

On the other hand, the relations and areas of cooperation between the UAE and Iran are old and well known, and may or may not evolve depending on the opportunities and scope that the future political consensus between the two countries will offer.

Certainly, the UAE’s foreign policy is unlike any other. It does not play with unprincipled interests, even if it takes a pragmatic approach, but remains built on stable values where interests do not override principles. There is always a way to ensure both. Stability and security are critical to creating an environment that fosters the UAE’s dream of being at the forefront of global competition.

This is the main objective that drives the UAE diplomatic apparatus to mitigate crises, build bridges and bridge the gap with and between all. I personally liked the statement of an Israeli source on an Israeli website: “Israel is not affected by this development. It is not happy about it either. But we do not need assurances from the UAE.”

He expressed relative understanding of the UAE’s strategic motivations in this regard. This may reflect growing trust between the two peace partners, despite the fact that the Abraham Agreement was concluded only recently. This is the most important point we can derive from what is happening around us.

Trust is the core that helps build reliable expectations of the promising future prospects of the relationship that will result from this agreement, one of the most important foundations for coexistence and peace in the Middle East.

The insight of the Israeli leadership also reflects the difference between the UAE and the other regional parties, everyone knows how they use and exploit the relationship between the different parties. Everyone also knows the positions and consistency of the UAE. My belief is that the relationship between the UAE and Israel is there for eternity.

It is not for propaganda or the pursuit of a temporary tactical goal. It aims at achieving lasting common interests. Foreign policy is a means for the UAE to achieve economic and developmental goals.

It is “a tool to serve the highest national goals, especially the economic interests of the UAE, because the purpose of politics is to serve the economy, and the purpose of the economy is to provide the best possible life for the people of the UAE,” as summed up in the third principle of the ten principles of the Document of 50, a roadmap for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate