On 13th August 2020, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) confirmed stable and peaceful relations through the Abraham Accord. The agreement was administered by America, as stated by American President Donald Trump at a press briefing, “I hosted a very special call with two friends, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, where they agreed to finalize a historical peace agreement”. In summary, the agreement entails normalization of full diplomatic relations between the two nations, the exchange of embassies and ambassadors, and the cooperation on “areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security”. But what does the agreement mean for the escalation of the Palestinian regional conflict?
The deal signifies the first Gulf country and the third Arab country to have “full diplomatic relations with Israel” since Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, with Egypt having already signed an agreement in 1979 and subsequently, Jordan in 1994.
The UAE is a Muslim Kingdom made up of seven smaller entities and is home to large oil and natural gas reserves. According to an analysis by Ben Sales, the UAE has sought relations with Israel since the 1990s, with both nations sharing military and security intelligence. The UAE retains major benefits from the accord, making the country a diplomatic leader in the Israeli region; the accord will also mean an “influx of Israeli tourists and money” into the Emirati region.
According to Sales, throughout its 72-year history, Israel has been at war with, and has existed unrecognized by, its neighbouring Arab nations. Israel has fought ‘four major wars with coalitions of Arab states that pledged and failed to destroy it’. The 13th’s Accord not only symbolizes the recognition of the Israeli state by yet another Arab country, but it also brings to light the unofficial cooperation the two nations have actively practiced since the 1990s, effectively officialising them.
Recognizing the Israeli State
The Israeli state’s aims to mark peace with the Middle-East have been long-sought, and was often compromised due to Israel’s involvement in the West Bank. The accord provided a loop-hole. Now, Israel may continue its efforts in its regional conflict with Palestine, and the intended annexation of the area may proceed, and as possibly hinted at by the accord, with or without the Arab coalition’s objection.
Throughout the Arab-Israeli war, Arab countries had “united around the idea that Palestine must be liberated and Israel was not to be tolerated”. In 2002, the Arab Peace initiative said that “normalization with the Arab world would come only after Israel ended its occupation”. It is suggested that now that an Arab country has normalized ties with Israel “without any concession on the Palestinian issue”, that this may spark a trend and more Arab nations may follow. Bahrain, Oman, and Morocco are already seeking to follow the UAE’s footsteps, with Sudan having already followed the UAE in signing a peace agreement with the Israeli state.
The issue with recognizing the Israeli state starts and ends with Palestine. In the words of Palestinian diplomat, Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinians feel “sold out” by a country that was supposed to have pledged to ending Israeli occupation as highlighted in 2002’s peace initiative. Palestinian leaders in Ramallah see the accord as a betrayal by the UAE of the Palestinian cause.
What makes this controversy easy to ignore for the Arab states involved is the expressed efforts by Israel to create peace with Palestine. But, these efforts have not gone far. According to CFR (Council on Foreign Affairs) expert, Steven A. Cook, Israel has “demonstrated little interest” in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. If anything, iut has “tightened its grip” on the West Bank, and maintains a “tight cordon” around the Gaza Strip.
Yesterday, Kamel Hawwash, Vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC), stated, “For the past 10 days, Israel has bombed Gaza every night, terrorising the population. In addition, the only surviving electricity power plant has run out of fuel, plunging the tiny strip into darkness and impacting on all aspects of normal life.”
The Gaza strip is not occupied by Israel but has been under “intense Israeli siege” since June 2007. A 2012 United Nations report predicted that Gaza would become “unliveable” by 2020 if the Israeli terrorization of the region had continued.
A Bitter Truth?
A new report in 2017 found that Palestinians, every day, are living in the “sad reality” that their lives are “getting more and more wretched”. With the accord signifying a sudden pledge of Arab allegiance to the Israeli state, possibly acting as a catalyst for more Arab nations to follow, it appears that the economic benefits posed by Arab-Israeli alliances are growing irresistible – making Palestinian lives cheap, and the nations which pledged to protect them weak.