Emirati mogul tells Israeli TV: Hezbollah must disappear from the Earth

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, who runs UAE conglomerate, is looking forward to doing business with Israelis; says Iran threatens region while supporting ‘all terrorists in the world’

By TOI STAFFToday, 1:41 pm  1Emirati businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor (Channel 13 screenshot)

A top Emirate businessman has told an Israeli TV network that Iran, Hezbollah and global terrorism are major threats that must be dealt with, and that he hopes Israel will make Hezbollah “disappear from the Earth.”

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor is the head of Al Habtoor group, a major conglomerate that deals in real estate, education, hospitality, automotive industries, publishing and other areas. He is responsible for one of Dubai’s more iconic buildings, the Burj Al Arab hotel.

The billionaire had been a proponent of normalization with Israel even before the United Arab Emirates and the Jewish state signed an agreement to establish formal ties this year.

“I don’t really like the word of peace because we have no argument, we have no dispute between us and the Israelis,” he told Channel 13 in a report that aired Thursday night.

Al Habtoor said Iran presented a threat to the whole Middle East. “It supports all the terrorists in the world. I am against war personally, but I am with erasing all the terrorists on Earth,” he said.

He also cited Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group as a major regional problem.

“Hezbollah must disappear, must disappear from the Earth,” he said. “Hezbollah controls everything [in Lebanon], if Hezbollah’s there we cannot help. Somebody, someone, some country must get rid of this, and the only one I think [can do it] which is on the border is Israel.”

Asked then if he meant Israel should deal with Hezbollah, Al Habtoor replied: “One hundred percent. These are the only people, because they know them. And to make peace with Lebanon, that will be excellent, for Israelis and Lebanese to move [closer] to each other… This will be a great gift.”Hezbollah terrorists stand in formation at a rally to mark Jerusalem Day, or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Al Habtoor’s company was one of the first to announce plans for joint business in Israel following normalization. In September it said it was working with Israeli airline Israir on launching direct routes between the countries, as well as further as-yet-unannounced collaborations.

He said the two nations were currently in “a period of engagement. Not the marriage — engagement. And we see each other, how we help each other, how we can cooperate.”

With their economies hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel are hoping for rapid dividends from the normalization deal.

They have already signed treaties on direct flights, along with accords on investment protection, science and technology.

Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi gave its final okay to a visa exemption program with Israel. That agreement still must be ratified by the Israeli cabinet and Knesset before it enters into force. The Knesset last month approved Israel’s normalization deal with the UAE by an overwhelming majority, all but ensuring that the visa program will be confirmed in the near future.Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks in the West Bank city of Ramallah on September 3, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool/AFP)

Israel’s deals with the UAE and Bahrain infuriated the Palestinians, who condemned the Gulf nations’ actions as a “stab in the back” and a “betrayal.” They recalled their ambassadors to the countries.

However, media reports Wednesday in Reuters, Saudi-backed al-Arabiya and the major Palestinian news agency Ma’an indicated those envoys had been quietly returned recently.

In mid-September, the Arab League struck down a draft resolution presented by the PA that would have condemned normalization with Israel. While the Palestinian Authority attempted numerous strategies since then — such as beginning unity talks with its rival Hamas and engaging with the UAE’s regional rivals Turkey and Qatar — they bore little fruit.

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