On August 13, 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a peace agreement called the ‘Abraham Accord’, brokered by the US administration. US President Donald Trump announced that the pact for ‘normalization’ of ties between the two countries will encompass broader cooperation in trade, tourism, food security, technology, and energy. This makes UAE the first Gulf state and the third Arab country to develop ‘normal’ diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan’s peace agreements of 1979 and 1994 respectively.
The surprise announcement came after months of talks through a mediator, Jared Kushner, senior advisor and son-in-law of President Trump. Creating severe backlash from the Palestinians, the move also angered several Muslim states across the globe that have denounced the state of Israel over its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory.
A statement from Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of UAE after the announcement emphasized that future annexation of the Palestinian land by Israel will be suspended as a major feature of the agreement. “The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperate and set a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship.” The two sides have also agreed to open reciprocal embassies and initiate direct flights. UAE-ISRAEL RAPPROCHEMENT
Earlier in June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had indicated the establishment of ties with the UAE, particularly in terms of cooperation over the Covid crisis. However, the UAE officials watered down the claim, describing it as a collaboration between private Emirati and Israeli companies. This hesitation on part of the Emirates was probably due to Israel’s announcement to annex all Palestinian territories by July which would have thrown a spanner in the works. However, the last week’s announcement of rapprochement between the two sides came after reassurances that Israel would ‘suspend’ the annexation.
How the world has reacted?
Predictably, the movie has garnered severe backlash from several Muslim countries, particularly Iran and Turkey. This development accentuates the internal fissures of the Muslim world where Gulf and Arab states are becoming increasingly wary of Iran’s regional posture and are perhaps making unlikely alliances against a commonly perceived enemy which is Iran.
Iran has called the move a ‘strategic stupidity’, while Turkey called it a ‘betrayal’ of the Palestinian cause. Breaking several days of silence, Saudi Arabia has also stated that it will not follow the UAE in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel until it signs an internationally recognized peace accord with the Palestinians.6 The European Union (EU) foreign policy spokeswoman, Nabila Massrali welcomed the move while emphasizing that the EU has always supported the two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict.7Not surprisingly, the harshest reaction came from Palestine where President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the accord outright. His adviser’s statement read, “The deal is a betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, and the Palestinian cause.” UAE-ISRAEL RAPPROCHEMENT
Why the peace deal?
Having cold-shouldered its previous overtures for establishing bilateral relations, the United Arab Emirates has now taken a step toward building a close and important relationship with Israel. This bold move while being slandered all over the Muslim world, has been defended by the Emirates as a strategy to create ‘more opportunities for peace’ and ‘badly needed realism’. UAE-ISRAEL RAPPROCHEMENT
UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said, “While the peace decision remains basically a Palestinian-Israeli one, the bold initiative of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has allowed, by banishing the specter of annexing Palestinian lands, more time for peace opportunities through the two-state solution”.
Pausing the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the West Bank settlements for a while has been promoted as the major gain of this peace agreement. While PM Netanyahu made it clear soon after the agreement that annexation is merely in suspension and not completely off the table. There are quite a few factors and actors at play behind this deal:
- This ‘Abraham Accord’ as an offspring of Trump’s ‘Deal of the century comes at a crucial time for his presidential campaign as his approval rating was sinking below the 50% mark.
- Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic at home and maximum pressure campaign to bend Iran have fallen flat which has put his re-election to the oval office in serious danger.
- The deal also comes as a boon to Prime Minister Netanyahu who is facing corruption charges at home and the country has seen three inconclusive elections this year.
- Apart from pulling two world leaders out of their domestic political quagmires, the deal in fact is a formalization of existing cooperation between Israel and UAE which was not the best-kept secret, to begin with.
Many say that the deal is more about limiting Iran’s regional foothold than it is about the cause of Palestine but it can be perceived as fulfilling both purposes simultaneously. UAE-ISRAEL RAPPROCHEMENT
UAE’s regional and global outreach combined with its economic progress and technological advancement has been a fruit of realistic foreign policy decisions. This deal is also a result of pragmatic ambitions. Many across the Muslim world are concerned that this decision will encourage other Muslim countries to do the same while the usurpation of Palestinian rights will continue.
Peace for all and pragmatism may have been at the center of this accord but on the other hand. Attacks on Gaza continue for the seventh straight night as Israeli warplanes strike ground infrastructures. UAE-ISRAEL RAPPROCHEMENT
Pakistan’s stance on the issue is clear from what Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a recent interview. Pakistan along with the rest of the Muslim world hopes for long-term peace and prosperity for the Palestinian. People as emphasized in the statement by the spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs“. Pakistan has an abiding commitment to the full realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination.
Peace and stability in the Middle East region is also Pakistan’s key priority. For a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace, Pakistan has consistently supported a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions as well as international law.