President Donald Trump’s bid to get Gulf countries to normalise relations with Israel without ending the Zionist state’s brutal occupation and guaranteeing statehood for Palestinians, has been dealt a severe blow. Bahrain has refused to follow in the footsteps of the UAE and insisted that it would only normalise ties with Israel when regional power-house, Saudi Arabia, strikes a deal with Tel Aviv.
Manama’s stance was communicated to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was on a visit to Bahrain a day after leading a US-Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi to mark the start of talks toward full open diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Kushner’s hope of getting Bahrain to shift its position was dashed when told by King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa that he will not strike a deal with Israel before the region’s heavyweight, Saudi Arabi, acts. Though Riyadh has hailed the UAE-Israel initiative, it has maintained its traditional position, in keeping with the decades-old stance of most Arab nations, insisting that there will be no move to normalise relations with Israel until the occupying state agrees on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
In 2002 the late King Abdullah offered Israel full normalisation in return for Palestinian statehood in a deal known as the Arab Peace Initiative. The peace offer has never been taken up by Israel and instead, the Zionist state has worked to entrench its occupation further. Critics, citing the Arab initiative, have argued that when faced with a genuine peace offer, Israel has chosen land grab over peace.
Security consideration has been cited as one of the major reasons for the UAE breaking ranks with its Arab neighbours to normalise ties with Israel. Abu Dhabi’s insistence that the normalisation deal prevented further annexation of Palestinian territory has been met with dismay not least because the Israelis have said the pause in further annexation, which is illegal to begin with, is only temporary.
Opponents of the deal have argued that it does nothing of the sort and instead helps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right to cement their position. The Likud leader has always maintained that he could force Arab countries to reverse the “land for peace” formula – which has been the bedrock of any solution – by normalising ties with Arab autocrats without giving an inch of occupied land back to the Palestinians.