ANALYSIS: What the UAE - Israel deal means for the Middle East

The Middle East is becoming divided into 2 camps, one led by Iran and Turkey, and one led by Israel,Egypt, and other Sunni states.

Yochanan Visser ,

Donald Trump announces Israel - UAE peace
Donald Trump announces Israel - UAE peace

With the application of Israeli sovereignty over parts of Area C in Judea and Samaria as well as the whole Jordan Valley now on a back-burner a stunning development in the relations between some Arab countries and Israel is now the talk of the day.

At the end of last week, the White House in Washington announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had decided to normalize their relationship and come out in the open about a relationship that for many years had been informal but friendly.

The first sign something was changing in de relationship between Israel and the UAE were two direct flights by Etihad Airlines, the national carrier of UAE, to Ben Gurion Airport during the coronavirus crisis.

Etihad brought equipment and medicines for the Palestinian Arabs, but the Palestinian Authority refused to collect the aid, saying it would be regarded as normalization between Israel and the PA. Israel then decided to send the goods to the port of Ashdod where they were stored temporarily before transferring them to Gaza.

The normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE came into fruition after hard work behind the scenes by US officials such as Jared Kushner and David Friedman, who serves as US ambassador in Jerusalem, but also due to the help of the governments of Bahrain, Oman, and Egypt.

"I thank Egyptian President al-Sisi and the governments of Oman and Bahrain, for their support of the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is expanding the circle of peace and will be good for the entire region," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

It is expected that the next Arab country that will establish normal relations with Israel will be Bahrain that already acted as a friendly country and hosted Israeli diplomats multiple times.

Experts say that Saudi Arabia could follow suit but that remains to be seen since the leadership in Riyadh is engaged in double-speak when it comes to Israel and its relations with the Palestinian Arabs and recently arrested a Saudi journalist over pro-Israel publications.

Oman, however, could now also normalize its relationship with Israel after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the country at the end of 2018.

Sudan is another country that could follow suit after Netanyahu held talks with its leader Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan at the beginning of this year during a visit to Uganda where both leaders agreed to normalize relations.

Netanyahu, last Thursday evening, 13 August 2020, also called Mossad Director Yossi Cohen and thanked him for “the assistance of the Mossad in developing the ties with the Gulf States over the years, which assisted in bringing the peace treaty to fruition.”

Cohen has been one of the most successful Mossad directors in the history of the State of Israel and on Sunday traveled to the UAE for meetings with the local leaders, a trip that was scheduled before the announcement of the peace treaty between Israel and the UEA.

The Mossad director was reportedly also responsible for the purchase of protective masks from the Gulf States during the first wave of the coronavirus.

There’s now a lot of speculation over the possibility that Abu Dabi and Dubai will become major destinations for Israeli tourists once direct flights have been officially established.

However, these rich Gulf States only look modern from the outside with a lot of high-rise buildings and state-of-the-art commercial projects. The UAE society is very conservative religiously and socially speaking with almost no reforms in terms of civil rights and freedom of speech.

It’s hard to see how Israelis will abandon Turkey as there favorite holiday destination and will go to the UAE instead. Israelis who already visited the UAE say they expect the visits to the Gulf State will be for business only and not for leisure.

The agreement between Israel and the UAE could boost President Donald Trump’s chances to get re-elected some pundits say and another Arab recognition of Israel close to the November election is expected.

What is certain is that the Palestinian Arabs again missed the boat. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has already requested an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss the repercussions of the agreement between the UAE and Israel.

The PA will also approach the United Nations to explain “the dangers” of the peace agreement and again used the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to threaten Israel and the UAE.

The agreement between the Arab country and Israel constituted a “betrayal of the al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem” according to the PA.

PA official and PLO chairman Saeb Erekat said that the deal “destroyed the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

“Peace starts by ending the occupation and not by normalization and the exchange of embassies” the former PA chief negotiator claimed while adding that the deal was “a stab in the back of the Palestinians.”

Other PA officials added that the UAE had joined a “group of traitors who will end up in the dustbin of history.”

They got support from Turkey and Iran whose leaders also condemned the agreement and even claimed it was a “betrayal of Islam” and that “the road to Jerusalem would be paved with the blood of martyrs.”

Ebrahim Raisi, who is responsible for Iran’s judiciary, claimed the deal showed the weakening influence of the US in the region in the face of the power of Iran’s “Islamic system” and said the UAE had just closed a deal with “child killers”.

Now that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have closed a peace deal one could say that the Middle East has been effectively divided in two major camps.

One block is led by Iran and Turkey which both have become Islamist states and are very hostile to Israel. Lebanon, Yemen, Qatar, Syria, and Iraq are more or less also part of this camp and they side with the Palestinian Arabs in the conflict with Israel.

The other block is led by Israel and Egypt and includes some Sunni Arab nations, mostly the Gulf States. This camp has now changed the face of the Middle East and distanced itself from the Palestinian cause.

Relations with Israel, that has become a powerhouse in The Middle East, are more important and beneficial for these countries than lending support to the Palestinian leadership which never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity that could change the reality in the lives of its constituents.