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Israel-UAE deal: Israeli TV show mocks Netanyahu, MBZ and normalisation

Sketch of Israel and UAE leaders singing while riding on F-35 fighter jet sparks controversy
The Israeli satirical sketch lampooned Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi's Mohammed bin Zayed (Screengrab)

An Israeli TV show has sparked controversy after it mocked the normalisation deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and poked fun at leaders from both countries. 

Channel 12’s popular satirical programme Eretz Nehederet aired a sketch in which figures representing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed held each other lovingly and sang about the decision to normalise diplomatic ties. 

“We say enough to our conflict, after years of not fighting each other, finally we'll bring calm to Dubai's surrounding areas,” the Netanyahu character sarcastically begins.

The opening line derided the fact that the so-called "peace deal" was in fact between two countries who had never been at war. 

“Unlike Begin, I didn't compromise on anything,” the Israeli figure continues, referring to former Prime Minister Menachem Begin signing a peace treaty with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1979.

“Except on annexing the West Bank,” bin Zayed rebutts, before both leaders sing the chorus in unison: “A new peace, there won't be any more blood.” 

Under the normalisation agreement, Israel initially said it had agreed to suspend the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. However, Netanyahu later said he remained committed to it. 

'A new peace, a new plane'

The sketch was sung to the tune of the Disney musical Aladdin’s "A Whole New World", except instead of riding on a magic carpet with Princess Jasmine, it featured Netanyahu and bin Zayed flying through the night sky on a Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet.

Last month, the UAE reportedly cancelled a meeting with Israeli and American officials to officially formalise relations due to Netanyahu’s opposition to Washington selling F-35 jets to Abu Dhabi. 

US policy dictates that Israel must maintain its military superiority in the region.

“A new peace, a new plane, only because of you,” the parody video concludes, jibing at potential future arms deals between the two countries.

Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen has claimed that annual trade between Israel and the UAE would reach $4bn in the next three to five years, including money spent on military equipment.

Double standards 

The sketch caused a stir on social media, with many users pointing out that Israelis were being allowed to mock the deal while others in the region were not. 

Prominent cartoonist Emad Hajjaj was detained and charged by Jordanian authorities in August for publishing a cartoon critical of normalisation. His caricature showed bin Zayed holding a white dove bearing the Israeli flag, which spits in the face of the UAE leader. 

Hajjaj was charged with "undermining relations with a friendly country". He was eventually released, but still faces trial for “slander and libel”.

One social media user suggested that had the parody video been produced by Turkey or any Arab country, it would have sparked a backlash from UAE officials and public figures. 

Translation: The video was broadcast on the Israeli channel (12) ... and if it was broadcast on a Turkish channel or on any channel of an Arab country, I would have seen [Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anwar] Gargash, [UAE public figures] Ali Rashid and Abdul Khaliq Abdullah, and the whole group responding to him, but he is from the Zionist entity, and they cannot respond 

Saleh Al-Naami, a researcher on Israel and Arab affairs, drew similarities between Channel 12’s sketch and a 2001 incident in which then-Egypt President Hosni Mubarak was irked by Israeli comedian Eli Yatzpan's impersonation of him. 

Translation: The mocking of the ruler of #UAE by Channel 12 in this manner, reminds me of when Zionist artist Eli Yatzpan mocked Hosni Mubarak. And when Mubarak complained about the matter to the Zionist foreign minister David Levy, he replied that Israeli law allows press freedom, and that includes mockery of politicians

While Israelis have been allowed to criticise the normalisation deal, Emirati activists are often detained by their own authorities for speaking out against government policy. 

UAE businessman and influencer Hassan Sajwani, who has a verified Twitter account, caused outrage last month after he encouraged his followers to report those critical of the normalisation deal to the country’s attorney general. The tweet was later deleted. 

Palestinians have widely condemned the deal, which they say violates a longstanding pan-Arab position that relations with Israel would only be normalised in exchange for a Palestinian state.