Khaled al-Yamani’s friendly interaction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Warsaw Conference drew criticism on social media and condemnation from many prominent voices in Yemen.
SANA’A, YEMEN — Thousands of working-class Yemenis took to the streets across Yemen to denounce what they view as local traitors who sold their homeland to the Saudi-led coalition. They also slammed attempts by Arab states to normalize relations with Israel, calling for total unconditional loyalty to the oppressed Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.
The massive rallies took place in the capital, Sana’a, at Bab al-Yemen (Yemen’s door), as well as in the provinces of Sa’ada, al-Hodeida, Ta’izz, al-Jawf, Amran, and Ibb. A total of 20 separate rallies were held across the country. Both leftist parties and Islamic movements participated in the demonstrations, which were organized by Ansar Allah and promoted under the banner “innocence of traitors.”
This demonstration came in response to the Warsaw Conference, where Khaled al-Yamani, who was appointed by the Saudi-led coalition as Yemen’s foreign minister, revealed that the goal of Conference was to mobilize the international community to confront “Iranian expansion in Yemen” — meaning the continuation and expansion of the war on Yemen under the pretext of confronting Iran.
Thirty-year-old Mohammed al Darbai told MintPress News that al-Yamani does not represent Yemenis, he represents Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Al Darbai, like other protesters, raised a rifle and Palestinian flag as he shouted slogans denouncing Saudi Arabia and Israel, a gesture meant to underline the Yemeni people’s refusal to normalize relations with Israel.
Speaking at the protest, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee (SRC), declared that the Warsaw Conference is a military alliance against Yemen and states that stand up to Israel, calling the Gulf Arab states alliance with Israel “despicable.” He called on the people of the Middle East to reject normalizing ties with Israel.
For his part, Dheif Allah al Shami, the official spokesman for the Houthi government based in Sana’a, said Yemenis will not give up the Palestinian cause, “even if the Palestinians themselves and the world give it up.” He added, “despite the aggression that the Yemeni people are subjected to, Palestine is still the most important issue to Yemen.”
The protests came in response to call by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the leader of Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansar Allah movement, which has spearheaded Yemen’s resistance against the Saudi-backed government of Abdul Mansour Hadi and has been the primary force defending the country against a Saudi coalition incursion that has killed thousands of civilians since it began in 2015.
A friendly betrayal?
Yemen and Israel have never had diplomatic relations, and al-Yamani’s friendly interaction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Warsaw Conference, ostensibly focused on security in the Middle East, drew criticism on social media. Condemnation also came from other prominent voices in Yemen.
According to broadcast footage, al Yamani was seated beside Netanyahu. The two nodded at each other and exchanged smiles as Netanyahu sat down. During a part of the session closed to the press, Yamani lent Netanyahu his microphone when the Israeli leader’s was not working properly.
In its wake, U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who also served as Donald Trump’s personal lawyers and advisor on Israel, remarked the friendly incident could be the first step in establishing cooperation between Yemen and Israel. However, the meeting provoked anger on Yemen’s streets and many Yemenis who spoke to MintPress expressed deep suspicion regarding the meeting.
The Houthis described al-Yamani’s presence at the conference, capped off by his friendly overtures to Netanyahu, as a national and religious betrayal. The spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansar Allah movement, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, said the attendance of al-Yamani at the conference highlights the degradation of traitors to Yemen and that the participation of the Hadi government in the event demonstrates that it is completely indecisive and submissive.
The establishment of an administration-in-exile has forced former Yemeni regime officials to consent to the normalization of ties with Israel, and follow in the footsteps of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.”
The Houthis said that the Warsaw Conference was aimed at weakening the Palestinian cause. Houthi officials denounced the participation of delegates from countries involved in the ongoing military war against Yemen as treachery. “Peace in Yemen cannot be secured through capitulation to Israel,” the Ansar Allah spokesman said.
Top Photo | Protesters carry Yemeni flags and raise a Kalashnikov rifle under photos of Hadi government foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 17, 2019, Sana’a, Yemen. Krar Almoayed | MPN
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.