US President Donald Trump announced on August 13 that Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement to establish diplomatic ties. Instead, Israel suspends its plan to annex a part of the West Bank. But many criticized the Emirates decision. Revyuh analyzed the details of the business between the two countries.
The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced the signing of business between the two countries that envisages the normalization of relations between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. The Jewish state promised to suspend, but not leave behind, plans to extend its sovereignty to the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. This decision should be good news for the Palestinians and their supporters in general, but the reaction was the opposite.
Previously, Israel had planned to declare its sovereignty over certain parts of the West Bank, in accordance with the clauses of the so-called deal of the century rejected by Palestine and promoted by Washington and Tel Aviv. When it became clear that the Palestinians would not accept the deal, Israel went ahead with the plans, while Washington tried to persuade Tel Aviv to suspend or postpone the annexation of those territories.
Already after the signing of the deal between Israel and the Emirates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that annexation plans “are still on the table”, adding that the suspension is not permanent. But it is clear that once Tel Aviv decides to go ahead with its plans, relations with Abu Dhabi will complicate, or even sever diplomatic ties.
Betrayal of the Palestinian cause?
When Israel announced its plans to annex certain portions of the West Bank, particularly those populated by Jewish settlers, Israeli society was left divided. But in general, there were more people in favour than against. Netanyahu’s move is not so much about ensuring the safety of Jewish settlers in the West Bank as it is about winning popular support.
For one thing, now that the deal with the UAE is signed, Netanyahu risks having his approval rating plummet for having suspended the annexation. On the other hand, the establishment of diplomatic ties with an Arab country serves for the diplomatic recognition of the Jewish State among Muslim nations. In other words, it is theoretically possible for other countries to follow Abu Dhabi’s lead in the future.
With the signing of the current agreement, the United Arab Emirates becomes the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel: the first were Egypt and Jordan. Emirates, in fact, is the first of the Gulf countries to take the step and establish relations with Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian National Authority was quick to react to the Abu Dhabi decision and condemned the Israeli-Emirati agreement. Other countries in the Arab world also strongly criticized the deal between the two countries, including Turkey and Iran. The reason for the indignation of these countries is obvious: in their eyes to establish diplomatic relations with Israel is to betray the Palestinian cause, especially for those who dream of the disappearance of Israel.
But it seems that these countries are guided by emotions. In fact, suspending plans to annex certain portions of the West Bank mostly favors the Palestinians, making it difficult to speak of treason. If Tel Aviv decides to go ahead with the plan, Abu Dhabi can always sever relations with the Jewish state.
The business facilitated by Mosad?
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen reportedly visited the United Arab Emirates to mediate negotiations to normalize relations between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv, according to The New York Times. It is reported that the cooperation between both countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic facilitated the normalization of relations and the signing of the agreement.
The NYT highlighted that the Mossad chief travelled clandestinely to the United Arab Emirates in 2019 and organized the supplies of medical equipment from Israel to the United Arab Emirates after the start of the pandemic. This helped break the ice in bilateral relations.
In addition, Cohen met with representatives from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. In this way, according to the NYT, the normalization of relations with the Arab countries can be considered a merit of the Mossad.
In this context, it is important to remember that Saudi Arabia is known for its unofficial ties to Israel. Over the past few years, several reports have emerged about clandestine cooperation between them in the diplomatic and intelligence fields. What unites the two nations is a common enemy, Iran.
At the same time, relations between Riyadh and the Palestinian National Authority are deteriorating. But can Riyadh follow Abu Dhabi’s example in the short term? The answer is no: at the present stage, it appears that Riyadh is far from establishing official ties with Tel Aviv. The case of Qatar is even more uncertain.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki declared that he is withdrawing his ambassador to the UAE because of the signing of the treaty with Israel. It is curious that the deterioration in relations between Palestine and the Arab countries works in Tel Aviv’s favor. This means that Israel clearly benefits from signing the deal with Abu Dhabi in a diplomatic sense.
But there are those who believe that the step taken by Abu Dhabi is a betrayal of the Arabs living in the West Bank.
The agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel represents a direct threat to Palestine’s struggle for independence, as well as to Arab unity in this relationship, according to Ashraf Ajramy, an expert on problems in Israel-Palestine relations.
“The United Arab Emirates has always been one of the countries that asserted that they are not going to make any kind of concessions to Tel Aviv as long as the latter does not return to the 1967 borders. In this way, the United Arab Emirates effectively betrays Palestine and it disenfranchises its own territory and its own state with the capital in East Jerusalem,” he said.
According to Ajramy, the business between the two countries is a betrayal of Palestinian refugees because Abu Dhabi closes the door for them to return to their homes. Moreover, the Emirates’ decision makes the Arab Peace Initiative at risk: there is no longer solidarity among Arab countries, and this is a great gift to Israel.
Meanwhile, the UAE does not seek to apologize to the Palestinians and Arabs. Abu Dhabi’s official position lies in the fact that the deal was signed to benefit the territorial integrity of Palestine, so it is not clear why Palestine expresses its discontent.
Abu Dhabi signed the agreement because it has its own national interests, retired United Arab Emirates Army Brigadier General Jalfan Kaby said. According to the interviewee, the chances that his country and Israel cooperate are favourable for Abu Dhabi.
“I remind you that the United Arab Emirates is an independent country that acts in accordance with its national interests. Establishing relations with Israel is now within its interests. The UAE is not the first country to take that step: Egypt and Jordan did as well.” he highlighted.
The Emirati expert also noted that signing the agreement with Israel does not imply that his country has betrayed its commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative.