Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 18th, 2021

The Landscape of Israel-UAE Deal

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The Landscape of Israel-UAE Deal

The normalization of Israel-UAE ties should not have come as a surprise as the two sides had links to some extent for decades and their intelligence links reportedly stretch back as far as the 1970s. But the tension between the two parties had run high in 2010 after Mossad was widely blamed for the assassination in a Dubai hotel room of an operative for the Palestinian group Hamas, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
US President Donald Trump declared that leaders from Israel and the UAE would sign the historic agreement at the White House at the coming weeks. Trump says annexation is off the table. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had only agreed to a “delay” and the controversial plan was not off the table in the long run. David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, says the word “suspend” was chosen carefully, and it means a “temporary halt”.
Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) Oman and Bahrain have expressed their support for the deal while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have so far remained silent.
The Palestinian Authority has voiced its “strong reaction and condemnation” of the Israel-Emirati deal. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the UAE’s decision to normalize ties with Israel was a “big mistake” and warned “against opening the path of Israel to the region”. The Hamas group called the deal a “stabbing in the back of our people”.
The US and Israel seek to weaken the role of their strongest opponent Iran in the region. On the other hand, Iran fears that extension of Israel’s role in the region will create tension and bring about political and security challenges in the regional states. US also has urged Saudi Arabia to normalize ties with Israel to further sideline Iran. Israel is seeking to expand its ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world and Washington will also push for this objective.
Saudi Arabia would face sensitive political calculations before a formal recognition of Israel, but it may still succumb to the US persistence. It is believed that a polarization is likely to emerge in the region as Iran is seeking the support of Russia and China and Saudi Arabia is in pursuit of sidelining Iran through its approach to the US and its allies, including Israel. With the emergence of further polarization, regional stability will be at stake. Israel had already shown its military muscle to Iran through bombarding Syria.
There seems a disagreement over the terms used by Israeli and Emirati officials. Netanyahu says that annexation is on the table but the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the UAE’s recognition of Israel was a “very bold step” to stop the “ticking time bomb” of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. He said the UAE saw this as “a stoppage of the annexation, not a suspension”.
Officials from Egypt, which signed a deal with Israel in 1979, and Jordan, signed in 1994, have welcomed the Israel-UAE deal.
Before signing the deal, the term whether “stoppage” of the annexation or “suspension” will be discussed between Emirati and Israeli officials and the two sides had to agree over the terms before moving forward.
Trump administration, which has brokered the deal, is seeking to use it as a credit in his presidential campaign. His advisors also urge him to push the Afghan government and the Taliban to sign a deal before the US election and his defense minister had declared that the US would bring hundreds of its soldiers home by November whether or not the deal is signed between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
There are also concerns within the academic figures and thinkers in the UAE regarding the deal believing that it is tantamount to turning back to Palestine. But there voice is unlikely to be heard.
In the view of many Islamic countries, UAE disregarded religious values to reach their own self-interests. In other words, the majority of Islamic countries are believed to be apprehensive about the Israel-UAE deal, especially if Netanyahu does not agree on “stoppage” and seek to put the annexation plan on the table in the long run. But the deal to be signed between the two sides in Washington will point out whether or not Netanyahu holds out against stoppage. 
It is self-explanatory that the deal will outrage the public conscience in Palestine, which was surprised by the Trump’s declaration of normalizing ties.
Overall, if the deal between the two sides triggers tension in the region, mainly against Iran and Israel, it will be an egregious error but if it leads to further peace and stability, it will be acceptable to many eastern countries.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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