By Zafarul-Islam Khan
The UAE-Israel announcement of 13 August 2020 did not surprise me at all. It comes as the latest development in the growing Israeli relationship with Gulf states including Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the last three decades.
This accord is the beginning of a new wave of normalisation between the Arab states and Israel. At least 15 Arab states retain relations with Israel in some way or the other. UAE is the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
The real culprit in all this is a section of the Palestinian leadership led by Fateh and PLO which opened the door with its ill-fated Oslo Accords of 1992-93 which only helped Israel by allowing it to consolidate its control over the occupied territories, turning the Palestinians into defenders of the Israeli occupation through the security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and opening the floodgates of Israeli recognition by many countries across the world on the presumption that the Palestinian issue was solved. According to Oslo, an independent and sovereign Palestinian state was to be a reality within five years of the agreement but 28 years later the idea is still a mirage due to Israeli rigmarole and a never ending “peace process”.
All this normalisation took place while everything continued on the ground as before, from strengthening the Israeli control over the occupied territories to continued seizure of Palestinian lands to build illegal Jewish settlements on them and continuous changing of the situation on the ground especially in occupied Jerusalem.
UAE has tried to sell this agreement as if it will stop the de jure Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank while Israel retains the de facto control over the same. Even this claim is not true. The Israeli decision to defer the annexation of West Bank lands is because of the tremendous Palestinian and international reaction and due to the American condition that this can be done only by a truly representative Israeli government.
Israel is gaining everything from this agreement while UAE will gain nothing. UAE does not enjoy any real levers of power or geo-strategic position to force Israel to accept its pressure.
The new agreement in no way will help release the Israeli pressure on Gaza which reels under an Israeli blockade for the last 13 years which has turned it into the largest prison in the world. Gaza has suffered during this period from large-scale Israeli aggressions in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2014.
This agreement will only serve Trump’s election campaign as he is claiming this agreement as a foreign policy achievement of the Trump administration. This agreement is part of the Trump Administration’s so-called “Deal of the Century” which tries to bury the Palestinian Question for ever.
Other Gulf states like Bahrain are readying themselves to follow suit. Oman too has almost normal relations with Israel minus an embassy. Even the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Oman in October 2018. Many top Saudi personalities including Prince Turki Al-Faisal and General Anwar Ishqi have visited Israel repeatedly during the last six years. Last year, Abu Dhabi had agreed to finance the Israel-Europe gas pipeline.
All this will fail as long as the Palestinian people refuse to accept the Israeli occupation and as long as a vast majority of some 90 per cent of the Arab masses refuse normalisation with Israel until a sovereign Palestinian state become a reality according to the UN resolutions.