by James Bloodworth
Friday, 14
August 2020

The real winners of the Israel-UAE deal

It might be a historic agreement, but it's worth noting who truly benefits
by James Bloodworth
U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Israel and the UAE have reached a peace deal. Credit: Getty

Slowly but inexorably, Sunni Arab rulers in the Middle East are building an alliance with Israel against Iran and its Hezbollah proxies. This process received another stamp of official confirmation yesterday as Israel signed what was dubbed an “historic deal” to normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates. Israeli deals with more Gulf States — and perhaps even Saudi Arabia — may soon follow.

This isn’t a radically altered power configuration so much as a formal acknowledgement of increasingly cordial relations between Israel and its Sunni Arab neighbours. In exchange for treating Israel as a normal country, Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to shelve plans to annex large chunks of the West Bank — giving the UAE’s Prince Mohammed Al Nahyan something to sell to citizens back home.

Until now Israel has had no diplomatic relations with the Gulf Arab states. The deal is therefore another dent — following previous deals with Egypt and Jordan — in the pointless pretence in parts of the Middle East that Israel has no right to exist — or indeed, that it does not exist. As the left-leaning Israeli writer Shany Mor rightly asks: “Has any benefit accrued to the Arab world from this unremitting hostility and denial of the fact of an Israel, if not (dare we say it?) the justice of an Israel?”

Normalisation of relations also brings with it a range of potentially fruitful cultural exchanges, together with more formal agreements such as the exchange of embassies and a resumption of direct flights.

So far, so good. And yet, it is worth asking: cui bono?

US President Donald Trump — whose administration officially brokered the deal — will undoubtedly tout the agreement on the campaign trail as an historical foreign policy success for the White House. Moreover, should Trump win a second term, one can feasibly imagine him giving a tentative green light to further Israeli annexation of the West Bank; though whether the Israelis choose to follow through on that is another matter.

The signs are not particularly auspicious on that front, even if one must factor in Netanyahu’s penchant for nationalistic bombast. In a television address broadcast yesterday in Israel, Mr Netanyahu said annexation plans for the West Bank had merely been “delayed” and remain “on the table”. This may or may not be true: many inside Israel view plans for annexation as dangerous and unfeasible.

Like Trump, Netanyahu will receive domestic plaudits for the deal, which the Israeli leader will point to in order to distract from domestic imbroglios (Netanyahu faces corruption charges and, in common with Trump, has botched his country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic).

And yet, deals of this sort — between rival authoritarian elites — are invariably carried out over the heads of some of their subjects. In the process, they grant a penumbra of legitimacy to the existing order — in this case the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land with the denial of basic human rights that goes along with it. Netanyahu offered nothing in terms of ending the existing occupation of the West Bank. What’s been offered is an (apparently flexible) pledge not to annex yet more territory — an important distinction. No wonder the leader in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, likened it to “treason”.

We will hear much in the coming days about the historic nature of this agreement — Trump’s National Security Advisor is already saying his boss should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. But it’s worth registering amid the diplomatic self-aggrandisement that, for the Palestinians, any settlement which appears to legitimise Israel’s existing frontiers — and therefore the occupation — is far from desirable.

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  • An interesting essay, only slightly diminished by your conflation of the Saudis with the Israelis, as noted by A Sperzari Esq, above.

    Most of us are thoroughly fed up with this Middle East nonsense, which has been going on now, for over seventy years!

    The Israel have won every war, during that time, they are the clear victors, and it’s about time the rest of the Western Shrieker world recognised this, as the UAE have finally done.

    As Livy would say “vae victis”.

  • another history and reality ignoramus,
    if you were in Israel over the past few days you would have seen thousands – literally thousands of Arabs crowding the beaches of Israel, side by side with Jews and non-Jews from many different backgrounds, ex-Russian christians with crosses around their necks,
    no signs saying no Arabs or palestinians, no signs at restaurants saying no Arabs or palestinians admitted, no diffrerent entrances to toilet facilities,
    people like you spread bigotry and hatred by making such totally false allegations that you have no basis for whatsoever.
    No “palestinian” land was taken, you have been fed false propaganda, there never has been a palestinian entity until the last few years, 5 Arab countries attacked Israel and tried to destroy it when it was established in May 1948, they lost, they lost again in 1967 when Nasser closed the water passage trying to throttle Israel, and Hussein of Jordan believed Nasser’s lies that he had conquered Tel Aviv and so Hussein lost what territory they had illegally taken.
    Read some real history, not propaganda.

  • Well said, Mahmoud Abbas is a self delusional nutter.

    The Arabs haven’t controlled their own destiny since at least the late ninth century AD, when they started idiotically employing Turkoman ‘slave soldiers’, later called Mamluks.

    They were finally ‘liberated’ from Ottoman tyranny (albeit lethargic) by the British Army under command of General Allenby in 1917, and not by the deranged, adolescent, and Oxford educated pygmy, normally referred to as “Lawrence of Arabia”.(5’2″).

    If ever Western Shriekers stop supporting Abbas, maybe, even he will realise he has to negotiate sensibly with the Israelis.

    I live in hope if not expectation.

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