UAE-Israel ties: Bonding or Betrayal ?

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Appreciations poured in from all over the world when the UAE and Israel leaving aside their decade old differences finally decided to normalize their diplomatic relations. The US-brokered attempt to normalize the ties, promises for a formal peace between both the countries, which have never been at war. Accordingly, an agreement was established which would initiate full bilateral ties between both the country, including the opening of embassies, direct flights and many more. This Agreement further states that Israel will back off from the annexation of the Palestinian lands in the West Bank. Nevertheless, the new found friendship did not go down well with the Palestinians who have been in conflict with Israel for a long time. While the bonding between the two countries is set to flourish, the Palestinian leadership has described the move as a betrayal. Mumeninaz Zaman explores more.

A US-brokered deal

After Egypt and Jordan, the UAE became the third Arab country to formally normalize its relationship with Israel. The US was at the forefront in establishing the agreement between the two countries.

Both countries have been maintaining a warm relationship which until now did not have any official diplomatic or trade relations. Prior to this, the UAE like many other Arab countries has had an economic boycott on Israel. However, cooperation between the two countries started developing which is often aided by Washington.

The agreement so established is an official recognition of the diplomatic ties between the two countries. It also formally abolished the UAEs 40-year-old- boycott law, thereby allowing UAE companies and individuals to trade directly with Israel.

Announcing the consensus reached the US, UAE and Israel in a joint statement said this would push for a more stable, integrated, and prosperous Middle East, whilst it has also led to the suspension of Israel’s plans to extend its sovereignty in the West Bank.

The agreement is christened as the “Abraham Accord” in honour of Abraham, the patriarch of the three major Abrahamic religions of the world—Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It is expected that the peace accord will be signed in the White House in early September.

Factors leading to the Agreement

There are certain factors that cannot be denied when it comes to establishing the agreement. Firstly, it will be a major diplomatic boost to Trump Government ahead of the US Elections. The Agreement is expected to initiate bilateral technical cooperation in seven key areas: investment, finance, health, the civilian space program, civil aviation, foreign policy and diplomatic affairs, and tourism and culture. The result will be broad cooperation between two of the region’s most innovative and dynamic economies. Moreover, in line with the agreement if other Arab countries also open its door for Israel it will be a major diplomatic breakthrough not only for both the countries but also for the Trump Government, ahead of the November’s election.

Secondly, UAE-Israel started engaging in talks on their joint opposition to Iran’s nuclear deal for the last few years. However, things did not take a concrete shape during the Obama regime that lifted the sanctions on Iran following the signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal. As Trump took over, both the UAE and Israel found a new ally against Iran, who re-imposed sanctions on Iran. Even though the agreement has been proposedly said to establish diplomatic relations in exchange for Israel postponing its plans to annex West Bank settlements, but analysts also see it as an opportune to curtail Iran’s influence in the region.

Palestinian feels betrayed

Israel and Palestine have been in conflict since 1948, frequent war and occupations have changed the demography of the region.  The Arab majority resident in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the still larger number of Arab Palestinians living outside the area have strongly opposed Israeli control and feared an eventual annexation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel.

The so-called, ‘historic deal’ was decried by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and all the other Palestinian groups. The 2002 Arab Peace Plan, a brainchild of the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, clearly stated that peace with Israel was only possible after the creation of an independent Palestinian state. However, this move by UAE to sign a peace deal with Israel came as a shocker. The Palestinian leadership has described the move as a betrayal by the UAE, at this critical time which undermines their struggle for independence.

Hanan Ashrawi, an outspoken member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee who has served in various leadership positions in Palestine, said “May you never experience the agony of having your country stolen; may you never feel the pain of living in captivity under occupation; may you never witness the demolition of your home or murder of your loved ones. May you never be sold out by your “friends.”

Palestinian leaders further asserted that the deal was “a free gift to Israel” and was made to help the re-election of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Annexation of West Bank- suspended or delayed?

The peace deal has been a part of foreign policy for Trump ahead of the election. Though it has been claimed by Trump that the historic diplomatic breakthrough would suspend the annexation of the West Bank by the Zionists, Netanyahu maintains that the annexation is not off the table, but has been delayed.

Phyllis Benning, an expert on the region, notes, the deal does nothing to end the threat of Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories “as de facto annexation is already in place and de jure annexation is just being delayed for a while”.

The UN hoped the normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE can help realise a two-state solution with the Palestinians. As Israel has batted for the deal ahead of the US Election, it would be crucial to see what stand it will take in terms of its annexation plans in the future.

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