JERUSALEM – Today marks the one-year anniversary since the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates announced their historic peace and normalization agreement that became known as the Abraham Accords.
In his forthcoming book, “Enemies And Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East,” ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS Editor-in-Chief Joel C. Rosenberg reveals the details of an October 2018 meeting with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi who told him and a delegation of Evangelical Christians that he was keen to make peace with Israel.
Rosenberg and his team kept details of the meeting confidential until the historic and stunning agreement announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on Aug. 13 that the UAE and Israel agreed to establish diplomatic relations some two years after the meeting.
But Rosenberg had a strong indication, stemming from this off-the-record meeting nearly two years ago, that this announcement was coming.
“We have been careful not to reveal what the crown prince told us that day, but now we can share the extraordinary story,” Rosenberg said.
As he shares in the book – which will release on Sept. 7 in hardcover, e-book and audio formats – the timeline of Rosenberg’s interaction with the UAE leadership began in the spring of 2018 when Rosenberg was invited to meet twice with Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, at his embassy in Washington.
During their second meeting, Otaiba extended an invitation from Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan for Rosenberg to bring a delegation of Evangelical Christians to visit him in Abu Dhabi.
“Ambassador Otaiba told me this would be the first time that his nation’s leaders had ever invited a delegation of Evangelical Christians. He and his colleagues had noticed the delegations that I had been leading to Egypt and Jordan back in 2017,” Rosenberg said.
That trip took place in October 2018. The group spent several days meeting with senior government officials, Muslim leaders and local Christian leaders. The highlight of the trip, Rosenberg recalled, was a two-hour meeting at the palace with the crown prince, who is widely known by his initials MBZ.
“The crown prince told us directly, ‘I am ready to make peace with Israel.’ We were stunned,” Rosenberg said. “We certainly had seen a number of steps that suggested warming ties between the UAE and Israel, but there had been very little official contact, mostly behind-the-scenes, under-the-radar developments.”
Rosenberg recalled: “But now here I’m sitting in the crown prince’s home as an Israeli citizen hearing this extraordinary statement of his readiness to normalize relations with my country and I said to him, ‘Your Highness, I have no political power in Israel or anywhere else, but I am an Israeli citizen and I am a resident of Jerusalem. You have declared this year as the Year of Tolerance. I think it would be wonderful if you would come to Jerusalem to start a formal peace process. You could visit the holy sites that are important to you as a Muslim and you could visit the holy sites that we consider important as Jews and Christians. Please let me invite you to Jerusalem.’”
The crown prince leaned forward: “’Joel, that day is coming sooner than you realize,’” Rosenberg recounted at the time the Abraham Accords were announced. “So we have been sitting on that dramatic development for more than 18 months, and I have kept those comments private, but we have also continued to develop a close working relationship with senior officials around the crown prince.”
Upon returning home from Abu Dhabi in 2018, Rosenberg wrote an open letter to the crown prince in The Jerusalem Post inviting him to come to Jerusalem and make peace with Israel, stating publicly much of what he told him privately in the meeting.
“Would you come and visit the holy city of Jerusalem this year, and bring a delegation of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders with you? I write to you simply as a Jew, an Evangelical, and a resident of Jerusalem,” Rosenberg wrote.
In the last several years, a number of events have pointed to warming relations between Israel, the UAE and other Gulf states.
In 2015, Israel opened a “diplomatic mission” in Abu Dhabi.
In February 2019, a video was leaked showing three top Arab leaders – from United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – speaking against Iran and favorably toward Israel.
In April 2019, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced it had accepted an invitation to participate in the 2020 World Expo taking place in Dubai.
In June 2019, Bahrain hosted the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop, as part of Trump’s Middle East peace plan. UAE officials attended the workshop.
In October 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended an anti-terrorism conference in Warsaw, in which UAE officials and other Arab states were present.
In January 2020, Ambassador Otaiba attended the release of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” vision for peace announcement at the White House.
Then, Rosenberg recalled, the road to an Israeli-UAE peace deal seemed to come to a screeching halt that summer when Netanyahu began to petition the White House for a green light to incorporate up to 30% of Judea and Samaria into the sovereign State of Israel.
Senior UAE officials were stunned.
Otaiba then published a column in Hebrew in Israel’s daily Yedioth Aharonoth laying out the choice to the Israeli people as seen by Abu Dhabi.
“We have conducted quiet diplomacy and sent very public signals to help shift the dynamics and promote the possible,” Otaiba wrote. However, he added, an Israeli annexation “will certainly and immediately upend Israeli aspirations for improved security, economic and cultural ties with the Arab world and with (the) UAE.”
Rosenberg said the column “had the tone of a friend counseling a friend. ‘Hey you need to make a choice here.’ But there was definitely frustration, confusion, even bewilderment, among senior UAE officials regarding why Netanyahu would risk abandoning a possible historic peace deal with an Arab country – the first one in 26 years – to pursue annexation.”
Fast forward nearly two years from that 2018 meeting between Rosenberg’s Evangelical delegation and MBZ, Trump announced the normalizing of relations between the UAE and Israel.
Rosenberg explains in the book that he continued to meet and correspond with Otaiba after the delegation was concluded and knew something big was coming.
“With every conversation it became more clear to me just how serious the UAE was about a full normalization agreement with Israel,” Rosenberg said. “And it became increasingly clear that a deal was there to be had. But Netanyahu was going to have to make a final choice.”
“The August announcement surprised me in its precise timing because I thought it might come later in the fall, and because it was not entirely clear to me in July whether Netanyahu was really going to agree that this was the right moment to choose a deal with the UAE over annexation,” Rosenberg continued. “But I think this was a historic and game-changing development. I think it vindicates, in many ways, President Trump’s ‘vision for peace.’”
“It was a humbling but fascinating opportunity, to have a front row seat in such a historic and encouraging peace process,” Rosenberg added. “My colleagues and I – and millions of Christians – have been praying for the peace of Jerusalem for decades. How astonishing to finally see another deal come to pass. And what a joy to be able to write a book that tells the behind-the-scenes story of how it all came about.”
To pre-order “Enemies and Allies,” please click here.