Speaking their mind, getting aid to Gaza: How UAE's foreign policy is tackling the big picture

Since the war began, the UAE has been one of Israel’s most consistent critics and one of the Palestinians' strongest supporters

By Michael Jabri-Pickett/Editor-in-chief

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 20 Nov 2023, 2:14 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Nov 2023, 11:16 PM

“Israel’s security – genuine and lasting – will remain elusive if it’s built on the continued denial of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination. Any policy that seeks to obscure that fact is doomed to failure.”

This is from the remarks on November 15 by UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh after the Security Council adopted its first resolution on the Israel-Hamas war. Of note, amongst the current 15 members (five permanent and 10 non-permanent members) on the Security Council, the UAE is the only Arab representative.


The next day, the Associated Press quoted Nusseibeh saying that the resolution “is a first, important, and overdue step”.

“Too much time has passed, too many people have been killed, and too much destruction has been wrought,” Nusseibeh said.


She went on to criticise Israel for the nearly 200 Palestinians who have been killed in the West Bank. “This must stop and Israel must hold those committing these attacks fully accountable.”

The UN resolution calls for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” in Gaza for “a sufficient number of days”. Interestingly, the resolution was the first on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in seven years.

On November 13, at an event in Abu Dhabi, Dr Anwar Gargash, Diplomatic Adviser to the President of the UAE, said: “The only pathway to achieve lasting peace and security for both the Palestinian and Israeli people is through a political process to achieve the two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

While the Arab Street supports the Palestinians, the world’s governments have – for the most part – remained on the side of Israel. The UAE, however, has issued strong public rebukes of Israel while also getting aid to Gazans.

Six days after Hamas attacked Israel, the UAE Government announced Tarahum – for Gaza.

On Saturday, President Sheikh Mohamed ordered that 1,000 Palestinian cancer patients be flown to UAE hospitals for treatment. This directive covers cancer patients of all ages, the Government said.

Previously, the President had ordered that 1,000 injured Gazan children be flown to the UAE to receive treatment. The first plane carrying the children and their families arrived in Abu Dhabi early Saturday morning.

Also this month, the UAE announced Gallant Knight 3, which is a humanitarian operation calling on local charities to coordinate relief efforts is support of Palestinians. The operation includes the establishment of a field hospital in Gaza as well as three desalination plants in Rafah.

The UAE has always seen aid as part of the country’s responsibility. Founder and former President Sheikh Zayed had said foreign aid is one of the basic pillars of the Government’s foreign policy.

The website to the UAE Embassy in Washington says that over an 18-month period starting from January 2021, Abu Dhabi “provided over $3.5 billion in foreign aid to countries around the globe”.

On November 15, when Nusseibeh addressed the Security Council asking that the Palestinian-Israeli issue finally be resolved, she was able to look at the bigger picture. “Over the last decade, there have been increasingly vocal warnings and signs that the two-state solution is on its deathbed. What emerges from the ruins of Gaza may be our last chance to save it. But it will need all of us to continue working together … to resurrect it. The fate of peace and security in our region is a shared responsibility and not the burden of a few.”

The UAE has become quite comfortable standing in the spotlight on the global stage. In less than two weeks, the country will turn 52. The Government has already announced UAE Centennial 2071. This is what it means to be forward-thinking and thoughtful while staying focused on the big – and more immediate – picture, which today is about telling Israel to stop the killing, bombing, and destruction while also helping the Palestinians survive.

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