Upon U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of the agreement reached, between Israel and the UAE, allegedly brokered in large-part by the U.S., the corporate media in the Western World began putting many spins on the story. Such language as “historic” and “unexpected” was used to describe the announcement, which was fair although slightly misleading. Then the likes of respected outlets such as the Guardian newspaper, and others, began repeating, without challenging the concept, that the deal was brokered in order to prevent Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Although this does not seem to be the case, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
To begin with, this is not really a peace treaty that is to be signed, but rather an agreement between two parties. There has been no conflict between the UAE and Israel, as there had been between Israel and both Jordan and Egypt, the two peace treaties signed in the past between the Israelis and Arab regimes. The United Arab Emirates has long been working with Israel and this latest step has little to do with the relationship between the two, having more to do with co-signing the destruction of the Palestinian people.
The outrage that has reverberated throughout the Muslim world, has come as a result of the defacto acceptance of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians by the UAE, an Arab Muslim country. As the third holiest site in Islam, the al-Aqsa compound, is currently under siege and Jerusalem declared as the Capital of Israel, the UAE is also defacto recognising Israel’s ownership of all of Jerusalem as well as the rest of the land Israel holds. This is why the move is seen as a slap in the face by Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, whose land has been illegally annexed and occupied by Israel.
So What Will Normalisation Mean?
To answer this question, we have to break the question down into three parts. The first about what effect this deal may have on Trump’s re-election campaign, the second about how this paves the way for more Arab regimes to follow suit, and the third about how this will affect Israel’s annexation initiative.
Trump’s Publicity Stunt
To deal with the first part of this question, the announcement from the White House this Thursday, did seem sudden. The rhetoric from Donald Trump and his officials seemed to indicate however, that the whole thing was more of a publicity stunt on the Presidents part, than it was about achieving any genuine strategic goals. Jared Kushner, who has been presented as the author of the “Deal of the Century” plan to end the Israel-Palestine conflict, spoke primarily about other issues, such as combatting Iran and U.S. strategy in the region and later isolated the Palestinians as irrelevant to the issue.
To sum up the briefing, the Trump team essentially patted each other on the back and presented the normalisation deal as something both historic and near inconceivable to have been achieved by any other administration. This rhetoric however, sounds great for Trump’s support base, but in reality has no foundation. It is likely that Trump will use this as an example of how he has reshaped U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and will use it as a tool to beat his Democrat rival Joe Biden with.
Donald Trump and his team presented the deal as if it was some major breakthrough, in terms of cooperation between Israel and the Arab Gulf States, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the former Chief of Israeli Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, told Israeli news channel ‘Kan 11’, earlier this Friday, that the relationship between Israel and the Arab Gulf States is over 50 years old and stated “I had myself visited Bahrain 20 years ago and met its ruler”.
More Arab Regimes To Normalise With Israel?
In the cases of Bahrain and Oman, they have both praised the normalisation deal and are viewed as likely to follow suit. It is not far fetched to imagine that others would betray the Palestinian cause in a similar way to the UAE, as the initial meetings regarding the “Deal of the Century” plan took place in Bahrain and many Arab Regimes joined.
The UAE itself has long been involved with Israel and has recently been working together, militarily, with Israel in both Libya and Yemen. It is also not such a foreign thing for Israelis to be given the ability to visit the UAE, visa versa. This is also the case with the likes of Saudi Arabia.
But in the case of Saudi Arabia, it is likely they will wait for the reaction to the UAE’s move and weigh up the pro’s and con’s to such a decision. Saudi also has to consider the reaction of Muslims all over the world and from within the regime, to such a step, which makes it a more difficult move for the Kingdom to commit to. But despite this, Saudi Arabia has established close ties with Israel and has all but in name normalised.
Both Egypt and Jordan have of course already put themselves in the pro-Israel camp and are actively trading with and working militarily with Israel. The only Arab countries which are almost guaranteed to not bend to US-Israeli pressure, are Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia and Lebanon. Libya is a different question entirely, as most of the country is ruled by warlord Khalifa Haftar’s LNA forces, which are aligned with Israel, whilst the legally recognised government in Tripoli is against normalisation with Israel and has spoken out against the recently announced agreement.
Will Israel Still Commit To Annexing The West Bank?
The way that most Western media outlets are framing the UAE-Israel deal, it would give the impression that the deal struck has averted the prospect of West Bank annexation. But according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s very own words, it seems as if it has just been temporarily put on hold.
In fact, it is very conceivable that this normalisation with the UAE is part-in-parcel of the type of annexation Benjamin Netanyahu wants to carry out in the West Bank. What is meant by this is that it was speculated by many analysts early on, as to whether Netanyahu truly wanted to follow through on his campaign promise. It seems more plausible that Netanyahu would move to eventually annex the Illegal Israeli Settlements and not the greater ‘Area C’ territory, which together constitutes 60% of the West Bank.
By annexing the Settlements Netanyahu can achieve two different objectives. The first being that he can keep good on his election campaign, which was to go ahead with annexation, appeasing his right-wing Likud base. The second objective he can fulfill, is actively dealing a blow to the Palestinian people and at the same time keeping the idea of a “two-State solution” afloat.
If Joe Biden is to win the upcoming US Presidential elections, then dealing with the democrats on the issue will be severely difficult, as annexation will kill any possibility for the Democrats to work with Israel towards any sort of solution. It also may have prompted a shift against Israel from the Europeans. Instead, if Netanyahu annexes the Settlements, he will be able to claim to the world that he made a sacrifice for peace and that Israel have all along wanted to take the Settlements with mutual land swaps, and so on goes the endless talks of a “two-State” solution.
One thing that everyone has to understand about Benjamin Netanyahu, is that he is a great showman and he knows how to twist almost any scenario to make it look like he was the good guy. He will blame conspiracies against him from within and without, he will go to war, will bend the facts about military operations and always manages to come out as Israel’s most supported politician.
The UAE has no sway over annexation, if the US and Israel decide on it, it will happen in whatever way they choose.
Ultimately this agreement should shatter any illusions people had about a viable two-State solution. The UAE have essentially made no conditions to partnership with Israel and have betrayed the Palestinian people, as have most of the Arab Regimes. If anything, the UAE has just openly signed on to Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” and has become the first partner to take a step towards helping push this initiative forward.