With Israel considering the Arab Spring as both a threat and a possibility, the Israeli government has been cautiously observing how the country’s ties with the new “post-Arab Spring” regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have evolved. Thus, Israel’s stance on the Arab rebellions that started in 2011 was more cynical because Jewish Israelis feel that the Arab world’s radical changes will negatively affect Israel’s security. The core of this paper highlights the ”Arab backwardness” of the gulf regimes that resulted in the formation of a Zionist body and total ignorance of the Palestinian question, which was ”supposedly” on the top of the agenda for most of the Gulf countries.
The Arab Spring upheavals, as well as the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, According to Quamar, 2020) ”exacerbated the fast-changing regional geopolitics in the Middle East”, bringing the Arab Gulf States, notably the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain, relatively close to Israel. Shared security concerns about Iran, shifting US foreign policy goals, and increased external participation in regional events have created a sense of insecurity that has compelled Arab Gulf states to establish ties with Israel through normalizing relations. As seen by the UAE and Bahrain’s determination to normalize ties with Israel, setting the framework for peace, and are becoming less hesitant to engage with Israel openly.
Thus, this paper argues that Israel has risen into a regional power and maintains a range of strong ties with the Arab world, specifically with UAE, Bahrain, and KSA. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu perceives ties with the Gulf states as an outside-in strategy. By strengthening ties with the Gulf, Netanyahu will exert more leverage on the Palestinians. Therefore, this paper is divided into three Sections:
- The first section one discusses the implications of “normalization” on the region and considers Israeli and Arab perspectives.
- The second section highlights the impact of normalization on the Palestinian issue and the Arab backwardness of the gulf regimes that led to the explicit normalization of the Zionist body.
- The third section explores the Abraham Accords of 2020, which were not signed for peace but to safeguard the interests of the Gulf states and its impacts on the Palestinian question post-accord.
To provide critical analysis for this paper, this paper uses qualitative methods based on secondary sources such as newspaper editorials, articles, and journals. The paper uses this methodology to prove that Arab backwardness is a thing and that despite always mentioning the question of Palestine in conferences and forums as words and texts only, Abraham Accords (2020) were for the sake of the Gulf’s interest, not for the Palestinians.
The peace agreements indicate that Israel does not need to make peace with the Palestinians to normalize its ties with Arab countries. Indeed, it had long been assumed that the benefits of official diplomatic and commercial connections would be impossible to achieve without first resolving the dispute. (Friedman, 2021). Therefore, the normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain have disproved that claim and created the path for other non-Arab Muslim countries to pursue their interests by normalizing relations with Israel. However, it is worth noting that the normalization agreements with Sudan and Morocco were significantly more transactional than those with the UAE and Bahrain. In Morocco and Sudan, popular resistance to the normalization agreements remains strong. Clearly, “normal” relations with Morocco and Sudan are likely to develop more gradually and sporadically than Israel’s ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
The agreement also invalidates another long-held belief: that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the leading cause of regional instability. The agreement also invalidates another long-held notion that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the primary cause of regional destabilization. Regional battles have raged for over a decade in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In 2010, American General David Petraeus claimed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had had no impact on the emergence or persistence of these disputes. Furthermore, Israel’s alliance with the United States does not jeopardize the United States’ regional legitimacy.
Therefore, it has acted as an example for Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates to follow. Nonetheless, it is critical to recognize that Arab public opinion remains highly sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians and that this issue will likely limit Israel’s prospects of expanding on these preliminary normalization agreements.
Israel’s high-tech industry and military-defence and tourism industries benefit significantly from investment and trade agreements with the UAE and Bahrain. According to Friedman (2021), The investing potential in Israel has sparked a great deal of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, given the Emirates’ past as a regional investment spot, there should be some concern about the possibility of critical dual-use modern techniques falling into the hands of third parties.
First, the UAE and Bahrain consider Israel a valuable ally in the fight against Iranian aggression. The normalization accords make this anti-Iranian coalition more visible, and the UAE and Bahrain may believe it will strengthen deterrence against Iran. This could be the core cause for Bahrain’s participation in the Abraham Accords. Therefore, it is clear that strategic ties with Israel might pave the way for the UAE and Bahrain to work together on sharing intelligence, defence systems, arms, and high-tech sales besides deterrence. (Friedman, 2021). These issues have significant ramifications in the fight against Iran’s regional expansion.
Second, these agreements aid Arab states in managing their ties with the United States amid a delicate moment of rising Sino-American rivalry, when some are also increasing their ties with China. Indeed, peace between Israel and the Arab world facilitates this operation when the UAE is becoming more thoroughly intertwined with the Chinese financial, commercial, industrial, and energy industries. For Instance, according to Friedman (2021), ”the UAE accounts for 28% of China’s non-oil trade with the region”. Similarly, the UAE has been establishing itself within the African continent as a Chinese security subcontractor.
3.0 A Critique on Normalization & Backwardness of The Gulf States
According to Ferziger & Bahgat (2020), “The challenge for Gulf leaders is to engage with Israel without being seen as throwing the Palestinians under the bus.” Palestinians are adamantly opposed to normalization because it implies that Israel may enjoy the benefits of peace without surrendering occupied land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem or undertaking other concessions. (Falk, 2020). Considering the lack of Palestinian officials willing to negotiate on the Trump offer, Netanyahu says normalization with the Gulf nations is his goal.
According to Abdelkareem (2021), There have been significant shifts in the context of the Palestinian cause and normalization. These shifts are represented in the Israeli vision. Israel was dealing with the Palestinian issue as a gateway to normalization with the Arab regimes. However, lately, it has been the opposite. Normalization with Arab countries has become the entrance to the end of the Palestinian issue, and this is what Netanyahu, the prime minister of the Zionist entity, declared in 2011, saying that we are on the path of normalization with the Arab countries, which will open the door for us to advance relations with the Palestinians. (Algendy, 2020).
According to Abdel-Moniem (2018), this political consensus and harmony between Israel and the Gulf regimes made the Zionist entity change its approach and implement the peace plan with its own rules. However, this time from the outside to the inside to win the support of the Arab countries. Thus, inevitably impose peace on the Palestinians by force, which some might call an opportunity for peace.
Therefore, the impact of the normalization and rapprochement between the Arab countries and the Zionist entity is evident through several points, the most important of which are:
First, the continuation of the Israeli pressure on the Islamic world in general, and the Arab world, to achieve the most significant possible number of normalizing relations is all in the interest of Netanyahu. All of this took place during the Netanyahu administration, which sought to make the process of Arab-Israeli rapprochement a success to market himself internally and externally in the hope of winning the upcoming Israeli elections. (Abdel-Moniem, 2018)
Second, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the main hub for Israeli actions” (Abdelkareem, 2021). Attempts by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and focusing his efforts on building normal relations with Saudi Arabia will enable him to kill two birds with one stone.
This means that targeting the compass of the Arab and Islamic world contributes to influencing other countries and encouraging them to take the decision of normalization and publicly sign peace agreements between KSA and Israel. On the other hand, his accomplishments will be enough, regardless of the corruption cases brought against him, and are considered a gain for him to win the upcoming elections.
Third, the improvement of relations between Israel and the Arab world would negatively affect the Palestinian leadership internally and externally by making fateful concessions such as “the issue of refugees, the city of Jerusalem, security issues, borders and the annexation of parts of Gaza, and their indifference to the suffering of the Palestinian people” (Abdelkareem, 2021).
Thus, Palestinians will continue to pay the price of rapprochement of normalization of the Arab backwardness and boldness in declaring their relations with Tel Aviv and criticizing the Palestinian side. Moreover, According to Scheindlin (2022), “ the normalizations have done almost nothing to advance Israeli–Palestinian conflict resolution. They leave the Palestinians more alienated than ever.”
Fourth, Israel’s implementation of unilateral policies in exchange for Palestinian concessions. Unilateral policies were not born today. They are a double strategic plan used by the Israeli occupation since the beginning of its occupation of Palestine through settlements, the separation wall, the isolation of Arab cities, and the isolation of the city of Jerusalem. The creation of Palestinian leadership that accepts the fait accompli imposed on its people and the Israeli solution to the Palestinian issue. (Abdelkareem, 2021)
From 1967 until today, we find that this policy serves the same content: Expansionist policies and forcing the Palestinian leadership to give up important parts of Palestine in exchange for settling the conflict between them. An example that one should not be limited to is what Tzipi Livni spoke of, who hinted through her speech when she was Minister For the Foreign Ministry, “The separation wall is the dividing line and the temporary border of the Palestinian state.” (Omaira, 2007).
Therefore, this section critically explores the normalization of the Gulf states with Israel and its impact on the Palestinian dispute from the angle that it will not change the reality of the conflict. The implemented policies represent regimes, not people and the Zionist entity remains a racist colonial entity. It will embarrass the Palestinian leadership and the imprinted regimes in their relations with the Zionist entity. These regimes are required not to be hostile to the Palestinian people and to tighten the noose around them as long as they have decided to establish relations with the Zionist entity and to leave the fate of the people to a Palestinian in their own hands.
In the context of the Abraham Accords, promoting Israeli–Palestinian peace seems virtually out of context. The agreement’s driving motives were primarily focused on creating a political and militaristic alliance towards Iran and pursuing profitable commercial deals unconnected to Israel and the Palestinians.
Officials from the Trump administration, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and even Netanyahu “offered perfunctory hopes that the accords would facilitate Israeli–Palestinian peace” (Forgey, 2020). Primarily by putting pressure on the Palestinians, but by encouraging economic growth. Nevertheless, there was never a robust causal connection between the agreements and Israeli–Palestinian peace. Thus, The Palestinian leadership has vehemently opposed the accords, rallying Palestinian public opinion against them (Scheindlin,2022).
Against the backdrop of the Abraham Accords, which provided no evident practical benefit to Palestinians, the topic of Israeli–Palestinian peace almost appears out of place. Moreover, at large, Palestinians and the Arab population accuse the UAE of betraying them by supporting Israel while ignoring Palestinian rights. (Miller, 2020). Also, Emirates publicly announced that the accord favours the Palestinians, and evidence shows no truth to this. According to Holmes & Balousha et al (2020), “We feel betrayed,” said senior Palestinian politician Saeb Erekat. The accords showed that they were denounced as a massive incentive for the Israeli government to perpetuate its occupation further.
The accords made no commitments or arrangements for Palestinian investment in the economy, just expressing the broadest possible desire. “Peace and full normalization between [the Emirates and Israel] can help transform the Middle East by spurring economic growth.” (Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, 2020). Even if the agreements had resulted in economic advantages, there was no reason to believe that a trickle of progress would lead to peace.
Therefore, Not only have Palestinian–Israeli ties remained stagnant, but ties between the UAE and Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which were already strained, have nearly entirely worsened. In the current environment, the UAE will unlikely gain Palestinian trust if it wants to play a more critical stance as a regional mediator or facilitator.
First, a Gulf state’s decision to normalize relations with Israel is a stunning blow to the Palestinian issue and a direct representation of how much the country and Arab interests have shifted. Second, Many Arab states appear to have realized that they are willing to withdraw from the Palestinian issue (Miller, 2020). The Arab world should not and will not abandon this cause entirely, but the signing of agreements has made it quite evident that they will no longer permit their interests to suffer due to it.
Third, a well-established and functioning Palestinian Liberation Group formerly fought for Palestinian rights in regional and international forums. However, Palestinians currently lack a single cohesive platform, which will unfortunately further exacerbate their difficult predicament (Rehman, 2020).
Fourth, without a doubt, the Palestinians will resurrect their popular resistance. Nevertheless, to organize the “13 million people living in colonial Palestine and around the world” (Schulz & Hammer, 2003), Palestinians would need to embrace a vision of cooperation that places Palestinian citizenship in a government in which everyone is equal, irrespective of religion or nationality.
However, the question remains. Was the Palestinian issue jeopardized because of the UAE’s agreement with Israel? It was referred to as a betrayal by Palestinians. What will happen if “any improvement in the Gulf and Israel relations will only take place at the Palestinians’ costs” (Rehman, 2020)? According to Zargham (2020). The Palestinian Authority has already openly refused and repudiated the two countries’ agreement.
Local and international reactions frequently tell the narrative of whether a peace agreement is accepted or rejected. Both Gulf governments officially welcomed and supported the accord, starting with Oman and Bahrain, and the globe largely reacted positively. Accordingly, Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the US, called it “a win for diplomacy and the region” (Zweiri, 2020). Claiming that they had obtained an “overwhelmingly positive reaction from the United Nations and more than 40 other countries around the world” (Khan & Shahzad, 2021). Al-Otaiba further assures that the accord halts Israel’s intentions to annex Palestinian lands and ensures the two-state solution’s validity.
In essence, Israel has created a delicate situation in the MENA area to negotiate with the Gulf States. It could have been used by the US to pressure key participants to make it a genuine step forward in the peace agreement. If Trump is to be a true peacemaker, he must do so.
In that circumstance, he should press these players to recognize Palestinian statehood and handle the refugee crisis. Considering that any prospective peace process could only occur with the Israelis and Palestinians’ mutual accord. If this is coupled with Trump’s promise to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that any aspect of his policy may be reviewed, the Palestinians may be persuaded to reconsider. Moreover, it might create a foundation for the future President to push the peace process forward.
In conclusion, this paper explored the Arab backwardness of the gulf regimes that led to the normalization of an explicit Zionist body in the region. Moreover, this paper critically investigated the impact of this normalization on the Palestinian question.
Therefore, the findings of this paper: The term ”Abraham Accords” refers to a search for an authentic Middle Eastern nexus between religions and politics in order to boost the economy. The Abraham Accords are primarily concerned with the bilateral ties that bind countries to their state interests rather than explicitly addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict. As a result, the accords were viewed by Palestinians as a ”betrayal”. The UAE-Bahrain-Israel agreement has exerted pressure on the Muslim world, supporting Israel. It provides the Jewish state with natural bases to enlarge its power domains and vigorously combat political and military adversaries like Iran.
Future recommendations for this paper: a comparative analysis of the Egyptian and Jordanian peace deal with Israel in comparison to the Abraham accords of 2020 and to question the intention behind signing this deal in the 21st century. The limitations of this paper: the writer was constrained to a word count which did not give the writer the space to explore KSA and its position in the deal. Though KSA informally has ties with Israel this paper wanted to further explore “will the informal tie one day be a formal one?”
About The Author
Salmeen Adel is a contributor at the International Institute for Global Strategic Analysis (IIGSA). She is an Egyptian graduate of Bachelors of Science in Political Science from the British University in Egypt and London South Bank University. Her research mainly focuses on Middle East Studies and Public Policy & Administration sub-fields. Ms. Adel was also trained as a researcher at the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs in Cairo.