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Israel, between the cold of Egyptian peace and the warmth of Emirati normalisation

A man holds a phone showing a picture of Egypt's self-proclaimed "superstar" Mohamed Ramadan posted by the official Facebook page of the State of Israel in Arabic (linked to the foreign ministry) depicting Ramadan (R) hugging Israeli midfielder Dia Saba in Dubai on 22 November 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
A man holds a phone showing a picture of Egypt's self-proclaimed "superstar" Mohamed Ramadan posted by the official Facebook page of the State of Israel in Arabic (linked to the foreign ministry) depicting Ramadan (R) hugging Israeli midfielder Dia Saba in Dubai on 22 November 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

The scandal caused by the photo of Egyptian singer and actor Mohamed Ramadan with Israeli artists is continuously being referred to with reference to the decline in normalisation with the Egyptians, despite the passage of 40 years since the signing of the Camp David Accords. Although only a few weeks have passed since the signing of the agreements with the Gulf countries, within a few months Israel has achieved with the Gulf states what it has not managed to reach with Egypt for 40 years.

The photo scandal caused uproar and made the Israelis feel cold, not because of the weather conditions, but because of the unstable peace with Egypt. In recent weeks, the Israelis received a reminder of this, when the Egyptian star Ramadan dared to take photos with Israeli singer Omer Adam and other Israeli artists. It became clear that in Egypt, a photo of an Egyptian celebrity with a famous Israeli figure is a serious cause for concern.

Israel has reached the point where its citizens are greeted with a warm embrace in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), after only three months of signing a hasty peace treaty. While in Egypt, after four decades, it is still forbidden to take pictures with or to meet Zionists in public.

Nowadays, Israelis can admit that they are witnessing a state of irony, represented by the fact that the incident with Ramadan, nicknamed "Number One", means that Israeli-Egyptian relations are shaky. This comes at a time when the Zionists are experiencing warm relations with the Emirates, raising the question: Why is it working with Dubai but not Cairo?

READ: Why did the PA decide to resume diplomatic ties with the UAE and Bahrain?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's regime has inherited a foul legacy from the Mubarak era. When it comes to Israel, the current Egyptian president does a lot to receive senior Israeli officials in Cairo, but does absolutely nothing to bring peace to the grassroots level in the country. Perhaps for Mubarak, the shock of Anwar Sadat's assassination was severe, even though Sadat was the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel.

The Egyptians announced that what stands between them and the warm embrace of Israel is the Palestinian issue. Israel promised to solve this within the framework of the peace agreement, but a closer look reveals that the causes of the Egyptian cold shoulder are linked to deeper accusations. This makes up for many differences between the Israeli peace with Egypt and that with the UAE, despite the fact that Israel has not witnessed wars nor regional conflicts with the Gulf states.

The Gulf states' rulers seemed to be more flexible regarding the Palestinian cause, while Israel and Egypt fought at least one war every decade between 1948 and 1979, the date of the signing of the peace agreement. The Egyptians find it difficult to change their attitude towards Israel and consider it a friendly country and a former adversary state. Yet, the circulation of this opinion among 100 million Egyptians is a real problem for Israel.

Egypt is living a desperate, difficult economic situation, but the problem lies in the fact that its political circumstance is even more complex. The El-Sisi regime's popularity has not yet reached its peak, because when the photo of Ramadan and the Israelis came to light, the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood used the incident to distort El-Sisi's image.

In fact, what really annoys the Israelis is hearing broadcasters associated with El-Sisi's regime explain to the Israelis the limits of the current relationship in Egypt. This means that there is peace between the two sides, which is important and strategic, but not to the extent of embracing one another. At the government level, peace between Israel and Egypt works mainly at the level of security cooperation alone.

In contrast to the lukewarm Egyptian-Israeli peace, normalising relations with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco seemed impossible even a few years ago, just as the peace agreement with Egypt showed an unrealistic imagination in the 1970s.

On the other hand, the visit of the Israeli singer in question to Dubai brought good news about enhancing relations with the UAE. It spotlighted the possibility that more Israeli singers would follow Adam's example and produce works filmed in Israel and the UAE. However, the photos of the Israeli singer with Emirati personalities did not spark the same controversy as in Egypt.

Adam arrived in Dubai in early November, and a photo he posted on Instagram displayed him sat on a sofa dressed as an Arab sheikh. Thus, as soon as relations between the UAE and Israel were announced in August, Dubai opened its doors to Adam to perform in the country.

Adam is not the first Israeli to visit the Emirates. As a singer, however, he may be considered a pioneer in his field, potentially tempting other Israeli singers to follow suit. It is expected that other Israeli singers such as Ital Levy, Moshe Peretz and Sarit Hadad will follow Adam's lead and head towards the Gulf. There has already been a musical collaboration between Israeli Elkana Marziano and Walid Aljasim who recorded a duet and shot the video in Israel and Dubai. One of the song's composers is Doron Medley.

READ: Israeli infrastructure projects aid the de facto annexation of Palestinian land

In Israel there are thousands of singers, whereas Dubai does not boast the same number, meaning that artists from all over the Arab world will come to the Emirates to perform as part of their contracts with Saudi's Rotana channel, a leader in the Arab world music market.

Live Nation, the largest entertainment company in the world, has an office and an Israeli representative in the Emirates. Hence, many estimate that the Israeli-Emirati agreement will legitimise the Israeli singers' attempts to sing more often in Arabic. There are in fact Israeli singers who can sing very well in Arabic, such as Sarit Hadad, Eyal Golan, Zehava Ben, Yishai Levy and Haim Moshe.

Hagai Uzen, director of the NMC ArtWork's Mediterranean division, claimed that there is an opportunity to leap forward for musicians from Israel in the Emirates. This Israeli feeling contrasts with the reality of relations with Egypt and Jordan, where peace is related to security cooperation. However, the Emirati regime is preparing for the entry of Israelis to the country, and the Zionists are optimistic about it.

The Israelis and Emiratis both claim that peace in previous years and decades occurred between leaders only, without changing the reality of the people of the region.

As for normalisation of the Emirates and Israel, it is different, as they claim that it is time to pay attention to the establishment of the so-called popular peace. However, the facts on the ground debunk and refute all these unsubstantiated allegations, because the long history of this decades-old conflict will not be erased nor resolved by normalising relations here and there.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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