Israel UAE peace deal

Understanding Israel’s peace initiative in the Middle East

Author: Siddra Khalid

Israel UAE peace deal

Ever since Israel has come into existence in 1948 the state has been marginalized by roughly all countries in the Middle East. Some of the countries of the Muslim world have recognized it such as Jordan and Egypt, while the majority denied its acceptance because of the delayed formation of an independent state for Palestinians in the West bank. This is the territory conquered by Israel in 1967. However, in recent years, this motive seems to be withered away and the United Arab Emirates has established diplomatic ties with Israel.

Why this deal is important?

UAE is a federation consisting of seven emirates. Jordan and Egypt—the neighboring countries to Israel— despite having normal ties, had not strengthened the economic ties via trade. As opposed to these two countries, UAE’s scenario is much different. Firstly, Dubai is a center of business activities in the region. Secondly, in retrospect, UAE has never been a part of any Arab-Israel war. Thirdly, shifting its reliance on oil is among the top priorities of Abu Dhabi. Immediately after the announcement of the deal between Israel and UAE on August 13, ministers from the UAE and Israel tried to normalize bonds by opening up phone lines as well as internet access; and companies from the two countries revealed new agreements. Moreover, with growing relations between Israel and some other Muslim countries of the Arab region; it can be interpreted as an effort of the countries with Sunni Muslim majority to contain Iran–a country with a majority of Shiite Muslims. Additionally, the normalization pact also freezes the gaining momentum of Israel’s plan of the annexation of the West Bank.

Why is it happening now?

According to UAE’s pretensions, the deal is an attempt to prevent Israel’s annexation plan. Nonetheless, according to experts, there are predominantly some other reasons behind it; such as regional rivalry with Iran and its nuclear program. Israel and UAE, both see the bloc of Iran, Turkey, and Qatar as a troubling force. In addition, another common interest of both countries is to repel against the tensions of political Islamic identities which in the vision of Gulf Kingship is a threat to monarch rule.

The Role of US

The current UAE-Israel accord can be attributed as an indirect result of the failed attempts of US President Donald Trump to ascertain a peace deal “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People” between Palestine and Israel back in January. Nevertheless, this proposal was rejected by Palestinians, yet the Israeli Prime Minister promised to annex the disputed territory of West Bank as per Trump’s Peace plan. If that had happened, this would have provoked protests in Palestinian support. Considering the phenomena, the US played as an intermediary when Israel and UAE counterparts started confidential dialogues, which ultimately led to the normalization of ties between UAE and Israel putting a block of ice on the annexation plan.

Israel UAE peace deal explained in Urdu watch video

What are the benefits for UAE?

UAE gets the lead by saying that it prevented Israel to annex the West Bank also getting opportunistic benefits in terms of security and economy by developing diplomatic ties. In retrospect, after establishing a peace deal with Israel, Egypt was in a position to get out of bounds weaponry from the USA. Now, UAE can enjoy the same benefits from the US having exclusive access to the latest weapons. On one hand, it gives UAE a chance to redevelop its deteriorated image in the US because of its role in the Yaman war.  While on the other hand, at a time when the concern of every leader is to successfully combat Covid-19—by normalizing ties with Israel—UAE gets an opportunity to improve health care as well as technology by this partnership. Israel leads both in technology and health care. Following recent events, now, UAE is conducting joint research on coronavirus with Israeli TeraGroup.

What are the benefits Israel enjoying with the deal?

Strategically, one of Israel’s diplomatic goals was to establish normal ties with Arab countries. The peace deal signifies a way forward for a greater Israeli acceptance in the region of Middle East., which gives Israel an elbow room for expanding the diplomatic and commercial network in its region that was nevertheless minimal in its very own region. For Israel, the deal is possibly a start of a series of normalization events going to occur in the future such as Bahrain, Oman and Sudan are likely to follow. In addition, it is also a sigh of relief for the Israeli Prime Minister who is under fire because of corruption charges and misgoverning the issue of Covid-19.

What does it mean for Palestinians?

Palestinians consider the new peace deal as a threat, rejecting all justification given by UAE and accuse it of deception with an ally.  They urge to resolve the issue according to a negotiated ‘two-state solution’ between Israelis and Palestinians. Many Palestinians are of the view that normalization favors Israel by giving benefits of peace without giving away the land under seize. The deal certainly conveys a message to Palestine that others are going to follow UAE in no time.

Israel UAE peace deal: A new challenge for Pakistan’s diplomacy

Peace agreement as it is being called by the UAE and Israel appears to be an attempt to contain Iran in the region thereby shifting essentially an Israeli war into the Iranian neighborhood. And that has to be the main point of concern for Pakistan.

It is also important to understand that players of the “new great game” are realigning their positions following the changing geopolitical global politics.

Every country including UAE and Saudi Arabia has the right to adjust their posture according to their geostrategic demands and so does Pakistan enjoy the privilege to reconsider the country’s foreign policy objectives in the emerging regional scenario. But of course, without creating ire with long-standing friends.

The writer is a political analyst.

Twitter: @siddrakhalid

The article is originally published in Current Affairs Digest of Pakistan October 2020 print edition.

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