The decision by the United Arab Emirates’ leadership to normalize relations with Israel marks the first Arab-Israeli peace deal in more than 25 years. But it is rapidly shaping up to be the “Deal of the Century” that U.S. President Donald Trump was actually hoping would be forged between Israel and the Palestinians.

Why do I say that?

Because it’s becoming clearer by the day that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan (widely known by his initials, MBZ) wants a much warmer, much fuller, much more comprehensive peace agreement with Israel than Egypt wanted in 1979, or that Jordan wanted in 1994, or since.

While MBZ almost never gives interviews, his actions are speaking louder than words.

And a senior UAE official who works closely with MBZ has gone on the record with ALL ARAB NEWS to help us understand the thinking of the UAE leadership.

In part two of my exclusive interview with Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, you will hear things that very few senior Arab officials have ever said, particularly to an Israeli journalist, and on the record.



Among them, that the Emirati people accept the State of Israel in the region, and believe that “Jews and Christians belong here” in the Middle East, and that even though there will be political differences over a range of issues, those disagreements need not impede peaceful relations.

It’s not just talk.

Emirati leaders are taking concrete steps to make Jews and Christians feel welcome.

In 2018, for example, the UAE invited me – a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and an Evangelical from a Jewish background – to bring the first-ever delegation of Evangelical leaders to visit, meet with the crown prince and other senior officials, and meet with Muslim and Christian leaders. While there, we learned that some 700 Christian churches operate freely in the UAE, whereas no churches are legally permitted in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi hosted Joel C. Rosenberg and a delegation of Evangelical leaders in Abu Dhabi in October 2018. (Photo credit: All Arab News staff)

 

In 2019, the UAE invited Pope Francis to visit, meet with the crown prince and other senior officials, and even to hold a public mass for more than 100,000 people.

Currently, the UAE is building an interfaith worship center that will have a mosque, a church and a synagogue.

This week, Emirati officials literally rolled out a red carpet to welcome the Israeli diplomatic delegation, and made sure kosher food was available for all the Jewish diplomats and journalists.

And these are just a few examples.

Dr. Al Nuaimi is the chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE’s Federal National Council. A businessman by background, he is also chairman of Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, and close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (aka, MBZ).

I am very pleased to add that Dr. Al Nuami recently joined the Advisory Board of ALL ARAB NEWS.

Here are more excerpts from our interview.

ROSENBERG: What is the United Arab Emirates’ message to the Israeli people and why are you making this decision now?

AL NUAIMI: When it comes to the Emirati-Israeli peace treaty, actually, it’s an opportunity not only for the two nations but for the whole region. My message to the Israeli people is that you know, we all are part of one region. And we all are a victim of a narrative that divided us and tried to exclude some of our rights on both sides.

Maybe you’ve heard me several times saying that Jews and Christians, their roots are in this area and this region. They belong here actually. We saw that several generations had been suffering for decades because of wars, because of the hate narrative that’s coming from both sides against the other.

We think in the UAE – because of the achievement that we were able to make related to co-existence, related to tolerance, related to the acceptance of others and promoting a lifestyle, promoting a diversity, that we are proud of and is not available in the region – that we have a model that we want to incorporate in the region.

We believe in our message – it’s a peace message. It’s not a political treaty. It’s a treaty of co-existence. It’s a treaty between two nations. It’s not [only] a treaty related to between two governments only – no, we feel that, you know, the UAE people are ready to make the right move to the next level with the Israeli people to come together actually, to try to create a better future for both nations and for the whole region, and to work together actually to take a message of peace to the world.

ROSENBERG: Well, first of all, thank you, as somebody who lives here. The idea that the first Arab nation since the Kingdom of Jordan back in 1994 has decided to make peace with Israel, this is a game-changing development and I think it is very, very encouraging.

One thing that I think is interesting, and you just said it, is that this is not just going to be a “peace” treaty in the sense that we have actually never been at war with you or you with us. But it may be a much warmer true normalization than maybe we have or that we want with the Egyptians or the Jordanians.

Your crown prince is talking about trade, tourism, technology, investments, sports exchanges, cultural exchanges, direct flights – not just an embassy in both countries.

Talk to me about what that means, since you are a businessman as well as a close advisor to the government and to the crown prince. What does that mean to you? What do you expect will happen?

AL NUAIMI: Well, you see, let me talk as a UAE national because once the news came out about the treaty, we saw what was happening on the social media in the UAE.

You know, maybe in some countries it was shocking news – because it’s good news. But we found out in the UAE that especially on social media there was a blessing and support for this initiative because we already believe in co-existence. We have in the UAE, we have many Christians, we have Hindus, we have Buddhists, we have Jews, we have Sikhs, we have Bahai, and they are all living in peace and harmony and enjoying freedom: a freedom of worship, a freedom of practicing what they believe in the UAE.

So, our people were ready, actually, to accept this and not only to accept it but also to support it, because we are part of a region, as you know, that has been suffering because of terrorism, extremism, wars. But in the UAE, we were able to develop a country where there was security, stability and prosperity for everyone.

So, what I believe in is this. It’s different than the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. It’s different than the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. What we are bringing now is something different, with a different perspective. You know, once when [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat and [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin signed the [Camp David] peace treaty [in 1979], there was a movement in Egypt and in the Arab world against normalization. The same thing happened in Jordan.

But the good thing, what we see now, is that most of the Arabs are supporting the UAE-Israeli peace treaty. Except who? Those, you know, who are part of these terrorist organizations – Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian regime, and [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan, who is supporting these terrorist groups – and unfortunately, [Palestinian leader Mahmoud] Abbas joined them now. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity, we saw that Abbas moved to the other side….

When it’s come to the UAE-Israeli relationship…there [are] going to be issues that we don’t expect 100 percent agreement. But we shouldn’t let our political differences highjack the other fight. We should make sure we create a concrete relation in these different areas. So, my message is this, you know, we understand there will be political differences. Even in one family there might be different political views. But our vision in the UAE [is that] we will not let some of our political differences stop us from working hand in hand in the other fights.

[To watch the full interview, conducted over Zoom, please click here.]

NOTE: Read part one of my interview with Dr. Al Nuaimi here: UAE Crown Prince wants to visit Jerusalem because he seeks a “comprehensive peace,” senior UAE official tells ALL ARAB NEWS 

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