- Israel’s growing ties with the Arab World
By: Anum Feroz
The recent historic peace deal signed between the UAE and Israel on August 13 is set to change the political dynamics in the Middle East region. The normalization of diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is a highly significant development. The US Trump Administration played a major role and helped broker this deal, bringing the decades-long foes to come forward and shake hands, initiating a journey from being foes to becoming friends. The agreement came less than two months before the US election and President Trump at once touted the deal as a major foreign policy victory.
The UAE is the third Arab state after Egypt and Jordan, and the first Gulf State, to normalize ties with Israel and recognize it by opening doors for diplomacy. For the UAE, this deal is an opportunity to build strong relations with the USA and Israel and to gain maximum benefits by developing diplomatic, security and commercial ties including; business relations, tourism, direct flights, scientific cooperation, and, in time, full diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level. This will also give the UAE a chance to collaborate with Israel on health and technology sector that can help it overcome covid-19, a crisis from which every country wants an escape.
On the other hand, Israel has long wanted to normalize its ties with the Arab states in order to achieve strategic goals in the region. This deal will open doors for greater acceptance of Israel in the Middle East region, with the hope that fellow Arab nations will follow the UAE very soon. Moreover, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was under political pressure facing corruption charges, can get political benefits just like Trump by touting the deal as a diplomatic achievement.
The old rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia is mainly rooted in religious differences. Iran is a Shia-majority Muslim state, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as a largely Sunni Muslim leader in the region. Both countries are in a constant struggle to establish hegemony in the Middle East region. The UAE and Bahrain, the Saudi allies, have shared their concerns over Iranian influence in the region. What will be Saudi Arabia’s move? Will it follow Bahrain and the UAE and sign a peace deal with Israel? That is still to be watched closely
However, the question remains how far will this relation grow and what consequences will it have on the rest of the Gulf States.
Soon after the UAE and Israel peace deal, there was much speculation that the other Arab countries might follow suit. Trump disclosed another major news of a second Arab nation, Bahrain which had fully normalized its ties with Israel.
The Arab states have long been boycotting and maintained restricted ties with Israel over the Palestine conflict. However, on September 15, both the UAE and Bahrain signed a formal Peace Agreement in Washington with Israel. This is a landmark deal where both the countries have stepped forward and fully normalized ties with Israel.
Another major concern is the future of Palestine. Palestinians have long been fighting for their independence and freedom against Israel’s unjust occupation of their land. The Arab world too has repeatedly protested against the unjust and forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from their land by Israel since 1948. They have always extended a strong loyalty and alliance for the Palestinian cause. The Arab States support Palestine’s right to self-determination.
Unfortunately, this loyalty and alliance between Palestine and the Gulf States has seen a major setback. The recent peace deal signed between the UAE and Israel has left the Palestinians stunned; Palestine is in dire need and support of their Muslim brethren in boycotting Israel. They have outright rejected this deal and feel betrayed. A statement from the Palestinian leadership spoke of the “great harm it causes to the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people and joint Arab action”. Today, Palestinians feel betrayed and stabbed in the back by the UAE and Bahrain for signing a peace deal with their enemy, Israel. They fear that the recognition of Israel by the Gulf States and the growing diplomatic ties between them, will further materialize the Zionist agenda and will weaken the Palestinian struggle for freedom and Independence.
Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has quit its chairmanship of Arab League meetings, with Palestine due to chair a meeting of the council, bringing together the 22 foreign ministers of the regional bloc, until March. However, the Palestine Foreign Minister Riyad-al-Maliki recently said, his government no longer wanted the position. “Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council at its current session. There is no honor in seeing Arabs rush towards normalization during its presidency,” Maliki said.
The deal can have huge ramifications in the region. For many this deal is more focused on political than on diplomatic ties within the region. The growing diplomatic ties between Israel, the USA and the Middle East (including oil-rich Gulf states) is what many political analyst view as an alignment against Iran, a strategy devised by the USA and some Sunni Arab States to contain the growing influence of Iran and-Shi’ites in the region.
Iran has condemned this deal, calling it a stab in the back of all Muslims by the UAE. The Iranian Foreign Minister said the deal is, “Strategic stupidity from Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv that will undoubtedly strengthen the resistance axis in the region.”
The old rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia is mainly rooted in religious differences. Iran is a Shia-majority Muslim state, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as a largely Sunni Muslim leader in the region. Both countries are in a constant struggle to establish hegemony in the Middle East region. The UAE and Bahrain, the Saudi allies, have shared their concerns over Iranian influence in the region. What will be Saudi Arabia’s move? Will it follow Bahrain and the UAE and sign a peace deal with Israel? That is still to be watched closely.