By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
August 20, 2020
Last Thursday, Israel and the UAE struck a deal -wrapped in the closet of a bilateral quid pro quo(albeit, it is the politics of delusion, deconstruction and centrifugalism) to establish formal diplomatic ties after Tel Aviv agreed to suspend its plan of annexing the parts of the occupied West Bank–via a US-sponsored brokerage. The deal came together during a phone call between Trump, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed (crown prince of Abu Dhabi), paving the way for the so-called “Abraham Agreement”. Nevertheless, a true analysis supports the prognosis arguing that the deal would have some far-reaching impacts.
Apparently while suspending threats to annex parts of the West Bank– in return for full normalization of relations with the UAE–Netanyahu has astutely saved him from playing a risky gamble that must have pushed him between the devil and the deep blue sea. Understandably, the said deal seems more symbolic as the real importance of this peace will be an economic opportunity. In a tweet, Netanyahu called it a “historic day,” but he later said that annexation was “still on the table.” Bin Zayed, meanwhile, highlighted Israel’s agreement to “stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories” and seemed to downplay the broader deal.
“By uniting two of America’s closest and most capable partners in the region, something which said could not be done, this deal is a significant step towards building a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East,” Trump said. “Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead. After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations,” Trump said from the Oval Office. According to the White House officials, Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz were deeply involved in negotiating the deal, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
Given the history, the UAE had traditionally refused to recognize Israel’s independence since the UAE’s founding in 1971.In recent years Israel has forged closer links with the GCC- Arab Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain) with which it has had no diplomatic relations, unlike Egypt and Jordan. Arguably, the main factors that form the bonds of geopolitical convergence among them is their concern about Iran’s nuclear programme and the bilateral quest for business, security and intelligence ties with Israel, though since they are largely below the horizon it is hard to judge their extent.
By now, the United Arab Emirates has become the first Gulf Arab country to reach a deal on normalising relations with Israel. Virtually, Iran and Turkey lashed out the regional rival (the UAE) on last Friday over its initiative of normalising diplomatic relations with Israel, accusing it of betraying the Palestinian cause. Iran called the deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” Turkey said the peoples of the region “will never forget and will never forgive this hypocritical behaviour” by the UAE.
The Brookings Institute Mideast expert Natan Sachs argues,” The losers, as often, are the Palestinians. The impatience in the Gulf with the Palestinians now comes to full daylight. The Gulf won’t wait for them any longer, asking of Israel only to avoid declarations of a major change to the status quo. A question is whether anyone else and especially the Saudis, might follow. For now, though, the camp of Arab countries with peace or normalization with Israel grows to four: following Egypt (1977), Jordan (1994), and Lebanon, whose nominal leaders signed a meaningless peace treaty with Israel during the Israeli invasion in 1983. This latest agreement to normalize is not nearly as consequential as the first two. Hopefully it will have more meaning than the latter one”.
By and large, the deal, a quasi-reflection on the Arab-Peace Initiative (2002) is nothing but the Arabian Gordian knot as the Arabs are prone to embrace Israel while reconciling with Iran seems anathema to them
Undeniably, the changing global geopolitics has a strong connection with the Middle East where competition among the regional key players is reaching its zenith. A neo -bipolar order is emerging in the region where Turkey-Iran-Russia-China forms an alliance against the US- backed block in the Mideast. Geographically, the Middle East region straddles the three continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, mounting its great geopolitical significance in that the Mideast consists of the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Black Sea. The ME contains three of the world’s leading waterways or the navigation routes: The Strait of Hormuz, the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and the Suez Canal. The region is also the top oil supplier in the world and has its largest oil and gas reserves. But thanks to the brewing Sunni-Shite factions in the Mideast– causing a great dent in the Muslim unity, for decades, the Mideast region has remained the hotbed of the US-Israel political honeymoon of ‘divide and rule’ via creating wars, political and economic chaos in the region.
Though some western analysts say that the deal could mean a foreign policy victory for President Trump, who will seek re-election in November, and give a safe passage to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is on trial for alleged corruption, it still appears a foggy prediction about changing the Trump-election dynamics. Though this deal –to be known as the Abraham Accords– is the first of its kind since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994,the truth is that the said deal reserves the potential of promoting interstate disputes between the Arab-states and the states like Iran, Turkey and Qatar; while isolating the Palestinians.
The most glaring indication of the current deal is that for a regional and domestic audience, Mohammad Bin Zayed (MBZ) seems to have distanced himself from a political conflict focusing on the Palestinian statehood as a stipulation to regional peace, a raison deter of the Muslim-Jewish reconciliation. This mindset reflects that MBZ could not foresee the fateful consequences of the deal. Without settling the issue of the decades- old Palestinian -Israeli conflict, UAE’S unilateral move of restoring its diplomatic ties via making any deal with Israel is seen as a bad omen for the Muslim unity. Virtually, both the Arab- League and the OIC must condemn this deal.
By and large, the deal, a quasi-reflection on the Arab-Peace Initiative (2002) is nothing but the Arabian Gordian knot as the Arabs are prone to embrace Israel while reconciling with Iran seems anathema to them. Through Washington’s brokered- deal, the Arab- monarchs feel no fear from the US-conceived agenda (once advocated under the George W Bush regime) of transformational democracies for the Mideast-once witnessed during the Arab Spring. As for Pakistan, our policy stance is clear that we espouse our diplomatic support for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi is an independent ‘IR’ researcher and international law analyst based in Pakistan
Original Headline: A new game starts on the Mideast geopolitical chessboard
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan