Arab normalisation with Israel has entered a new phase in the last ten years, with the Gulf’s openness to Tel Aviv and the establishment of direct relations with it. This action was taken without reaching any political agreement or the exchange of ambassadors and with total disregard for the Arab Peace Initiative, which, only a few years ago, stipulated peace in exchange for Arab normalisation with Israel.
Israel has finally achieved almost complete Arab normalisation without making any commitments to the Palestinians or its Arab neighbours. In fact, in 2018, the Palestinian territories recorded the highest settlement rate in history, as the number of settlers in the West Bank reached 480,000 settlers. This is the highest number recorded since its occupation in 1967, meaning that Israeli has devoured as much Palestinian land as possible using settlements, the wall, confiscation, demolition, displacement, and expulsion.
While Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank peaked at the end of last year, the Gulf normalisation with the occupation also reached its peak, as within just one week in October 2018, the Israel national anthem was played in a Gulf capital. At the same time as this, Benjamin Netanyahu was landing in another Gulf capital, making him the first Israeli prime minister to step foot in a Gulf country. Two days later, an Israel sports team visited a third Gulf capital. While these Israelis flowed into the Gulf, the Israeli press talked about an Emir of a fourth Gulf state secretly visiting Tel Aviv. The Gulf normalisation with Israel is the most prominent development in the course of the Arab-Israeli conflict in recent years, but it is also certainly the most dangerous and important based on the following:
First, the normalisation of relations between the Gulf states and Israel, without reaching any peace agreement or political commitments, certainly means overstepping the Palestinians, ignoring their demands, interests and land, and thus abandoning the issue that has long been the top Arab cause for the past seven decades.
Second, the Gulf States have become the key players in Arab politics for years, as a result of the absence or decline of the major powers because of their bad conditions. I am specifically referring to Iraq, Syria and Egypt, countries that have been preoccupied with internal affairs for years after having led all Arab policies.
Third, the Gulf States are the wealthiest Arab countries in the world. They possess enormous wealth and investments. They also have the largest consumer market in the Arab world and the Middle East, along with the largest oil reserves in the world. They also have the largest oil producer in the world and the largest economy in the region. This means Israel’s access to these economies will give the Israelis, their economy and their products privileges they had not dreamed of before and will constitute support for the Israeli economy.
Fourthly, the Gulf’s normalisation with Israel means that the era of the boycott is completely over. Today, the countries that boycott Israel (Syria and Lebanon) are isolated from their Arab surroundings. This is after a time when those who had relations with Israel or who were proven to have normalised relations with the occupation had been isolated and blacklisted by the Arab Boycott Office. Naturally, today the Arab Boycott of Israel Office, which is considered a specialised bureau within the Arab League, is being boycotted itself by the Arabs. It has not held any meetings since 1993, and therefore no decisions have been by it since then.
We are witnessing a process of free normalisation with Israel, and Tel Aviv is the only one benefitting from this. What we are seeing is a systematic attempt to change concepts, ideas, doctrines, and ideologies to create a new Arab generation that views Israel as a friend without any consideration for the occupied Palestinian and Syrian land and the looted Arab rights.
These efforts aim to have the Arabs view Iran and Turkey as enemies with Israel is a friend that must be accepted in the region. They also intend to have the Arabs understand that the fundamentals of Arab national security have changed and shifted, and that the neighbours who have been so for thousands of years are the enemy and that Israel, which occupies land and changes its landmarks and features on a daily basis is a friend who does not pose a threat.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 8 April 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.