Middle EastAnalysis

Emirates pressure on UN echoes deepening Arab dismay at lack of ceasefire in Gaza

The sole Arab member of the United Nations Security Council normalised relations with Israel in 2020 but war is causing fresh divisions

The United Arab Emirates says it intends to continue to press the UN Security Council to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and will work to bridge differences between member states.

In a post on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said the Emirati commitment to Palestinian rights was “historic”, indicating that concern over Gaza trumps the Emirates’ 2020 normalisation of relations with Israel.

Gargash’s comment followed Monday’s emergency meeting requested by the Emirates, the Security Council’s sole Arab member. The Emirates has called for a biding resolution mandating an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to permit the delivery of aid to 2.2 million Palestinians trapped by Israeli bombardment.

Emirati ambassador to the UN Lana Zaki Nusseibeh urged the council to act on last Friday’s General Assembly recommendation, supported by 121 countries that “stood up for the humanitarian imperative, for human rights, for international law and, most importantly, for the self-evident truth that Palestinian life is precious”.


Israel’s repeated rejection of a ceasefire in Gaza appears to have compelled the Emirates to take a strong stand, risking lucrative tourism and business connections with Israel. Pre-war opinion polls show that public support for normalisation had fallen from 47 to 27 per cent.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Gulf sheikhdoms did not have educated and trained personnel and relied on Palestinian teachers, administrators, economists and businessmen to fill the gaps until local people could be trained. Emirati-Palestinian relations continued to flourish after independence in1971.

Palestinians still hold key posts in the Emirates and elsewhere in the Gulf. Nusseibeh, the ambassador to the UN, is a prime example. Her father, Zaki Nusseibeh, is the cultural counsellor to Emirati president Mohammed bin Zayed and chancellor of the United Arab Emirates University. Scion of a leading East Jerusalem Palestinian family, Nusseibeh settled in the Emirates in 1968 and has played a major role in educational development and served as adviser to the Emirati ruling family since 1975.

The Emirates’s UN stand has been echoed around the Gulf. Oman’s foreign minister Sayyid Badr Abu Saidi condemned “Israel’s inhumane actions”. He called for exerting “political, diplomatic and legal pressure” to halt Israel’s offensive, which he said involved “killing innocent civilians, destroying their infrastructure and depriving them of water, food, fuel and medicine”.

Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has called Palestine “our first issue”, pledged not to normalise with Israel until a Palestinian state is established and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza. It was in Kuwait that Palestinian engineer Yasser Arafat founded the mainstream liberation movement Fatah in the 1950s and raised finance to support his movement from wealthy Palestinians in the Gulf.

Bahrain’s foreign minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, whose country normalised relations with Israel in 2020, travelled on Sunday to Ramallah to assure Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of his country’s support. There have been large anti-Israel protests in Morocco, which also normalised relations with Israel in 2020.