The UAE-Israel announcement of closer ties between them on 13 August did not surprise me. It was the latest development in the growing Israeli relationship with Gulf States, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, over the past three decades.
The new accord is the beginning of a wave of normalisation between the Arab states and Israel. At least 15 Arab states maintain relations with Israel in one way or another. The UAE is the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to establish full diplomatic relations with the occupation state.
The real culprit in all of this, though, is a section of the Palestinian leadership led by Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation which opened the door to “normalisation” with the ill-fated Oslo Accords of 1992-93. This helped Israel by allowing it to consolidate its control over the occupied territories, turning the Palestinians into defenders of the Israeli occupation through security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This also opened the floodgates for the state of Israel to be recognised by countries around the world whose governments presumed that the Palestinian issue was solved. According to Oslo, an independent and sovereign Palestinian state was to be a reality within five years of the agreement; 28 years later this is still a mirage due to Israel ignoring its obligations and an apparently never ending “peace process” requiring ever more concessions by the Palestinians but nothing from the Israelis.
All of this normalisation took place while the status quo remained on the ground. Israel was able to strengthen its control over the occupied territories and continue to seize Palestinian land to build illegal Jewish settlements. New “facts on the ground” have appeared, especially in occupied Jerusalem.
The UAE has tried to sell its deal with Israel with the claim that it will stop the de jure Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, while Israel retains de facto control over the same. This claim is simply not true. The Israeli decision to postpone the annexation of West Bank territory is due to the tremendous pressure from the Palestinians and the international reaction to the plan, as well as the US condition that it can only be done by a truly representative Israeli government. The UAE does not enjoy any real leverage or geostrategic authority to force Israel to do anything. Israel is gaining everything from this agreement, while the UAE gains nothing.
Moreover, the deal does nothing to ease the Israeli pressure on the Gaza Strip, which continues to be under a 13-year Israeli-led blockade; it has been described as the world’s largest open air prison. The Palestinians in Gaza have faced major Israeli military offensives in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2014, and Israel has been bombing Gaza for the past ten days or more.
Furthermore, the UAE-Israel agreement serves Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign as he is claiming it as a foreign policy achievement of his administration. It appears to be part of Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” which is intended to bury the Palestinian issue for ever.
Bahrain is readying itself to follow the UAE’s move. Oman already has near-normal relations with Israel, minus an embassy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in October 2018. What is more, senior Saudi personalities, including Prince Turki Al-Faisal and General Anwar Ishqi, have visited Israel repeatedly over the past six years. Last year, Abu Dhabi agreed to finance the Israel-Europe gas pipeline. Nevertheless, all of this will fail as long as the Palestinian people refuse to accept the Israeli occupation and the vast majority of ordinary Arab people reject normalisation with Israel until a sovereign Palestinian state becomes a reality according to UN resolutions.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.