Israel’s presence at the 18-24 September World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meeting in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates has caused a stir in the region, as anger at Israel runs deep. Particularly so, over its recent decision to expel or kill Palestinian President Yasir Arafat.
Many say that the expected participation of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reviled by many Arabs since his days as prime minister, adds insult to injury.
“If I were in Dubai, I would feel disgusted and pissed off at seeing Israelis come and go in an Arab country,” said Jumana Heresh from Jordan, which has a peace agreement with Israel, but whose largely Palestinian population is furious with Israel.
Egyptian bank employee Ahmad Yusif, whose country was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, also voiced disdain.
“I don’t think Israel should attend the meeting. They are practising violence against the Palestinians,” he declared.
One Saudi man said the Israelis would “sully the pure land of the Gulf” by their presence. Marwan Damaj, a Yemeni, blamed the “tattered, useless” Arab leaders for allowing it to happen.
But many other Arabs took a more rational approach, saying there was nothing Dubai could do about Israel’s attendance without missing out on the chance of hosting the meeting.
“If I were in Dubai, I would feel disgusted and pissed off at seeing Israelis come and go in an Arab country”
Like most other Arab countries, the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and has consistently condemned Israel’s policies against the Palestinians.
But Israel is one of the 184 members of the IMF-World Bank group. The Star of David – for the first time ever – is hanging in Dubai alongside all the other participants’ flags.
“It’s the World Bank’s decision to invite Israel. Dubai is just a venue. It has no say in who comes,” said Abd al-Munaim Said, director of Egypt’s al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “It’s an honour to be chosen.”
Saudi writer Dawood al-Shirian said Arab opponents to Israel’s participation were being “more royal than the king”, since the Palestinians themselves were holding meetings with the Israelis and had embarked on peace moves.
“The Israeli presence in the UAE is a precedent which I believe will be followed by similar steps by other Arab states. Opposition to Israel is a mere formality these days,” he added.