Diplomacy often lets tranquility succeed incivility by offering more by collusion than collision. The most unpredictable unions are possible, usually by compromising long-fought struggles and causes. Although a lucrative partnership is hailed and endorsed publicly in the political arena, the cost doesn’t come under the spotlight. The deliberate ignorance of that cost can reshape the entire politico socioeconomic infrastructure by unknown dimensions.
The Middle East, for instance, has witnessed its political landscape gradually plunge into chaos due to the short-sightedness of the rulers and their ill-advised strategies over the course of three decades. The intervention of foreign powers, authoritarian regimes, proxy wars, and failed diplomacy have made matters even worse.
Although “unholy”, the alliance between the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and Israel would reinvigorate the Gulf States’ economy by curtailing its reliance on oil as well as strengthening the viability of diplomatic interests. The most recent development in the Middle East regarding the US-brokered deal —the Abraham Accord— between Israel and the two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, might be the turning point of the region’s much-awaited stability.
The first announcement of the Israel-UAE deal was made by President Trump in August 2020. Following the UAE’s footsteps, Bahrain also stepped forward to reconcile with an enemy from the Levant, and signed the accord in September, alongside UAE, under the watch of the Trump administration. The UAE and Bahrain are now the third and fourth countries respectively to recognize Israel after Jordan (in 1979) and Egypt (in 1994).
What’s on the Table?
According to the deal, Israeli administration will halt its systematic territorial annexation of the 30% occupied areas in the West Bank. In return, Israel can establish its diplomatic setup in both Gulf States to increase its influence, relevance, and reach in the region. With this arrangement, the Arab league has undercut its position on the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
The normalization of ties for the encouragement of business, investment, communication, security, trade and mutual travel has signaled a new era in the Israeli-Arab relations, which have been disastrous since the second half of the 20th century, and might pave new ways to resolve one of the most sensitive conflicts in human history.
The diplomatic breakthrough has brought about three major developments that can shape the geopolitical landscape in the coming years. First, the season of love between the key Arab states and Israel is in full swing, putting a question mark on Arab’s “undivided loyalty” towards the Palestinians. The economic, security and technological considerations might have alluded the Arabs to amplify their economies and move beyond their dependence on receding resources.
The agreement also signals the interest of Emiratis and their confidence in designing a blueprint to shape the regional politics in the best interests of everyone. This agreement has also turned the global narrative that the political and socio-economic setup of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) revolves around the ideological foundations of Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism.
The US-brokered deal, which is step one towards the implementation of the “Deal of the Century”, can worsen the bloody rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. With the UAE and Bahrain being the key members of the Saudi front, Iran, in retaliation, can turn to Turkey and other Muslim sympathizers to balance the power struggle in the regional vicinities.
The UAE is already investing its political and economic efforts to secure its strategic interests and counter the Turkish influence in Africa’s Red Sea Littoral and the Horn of Africa by acting as a mediator between hostile states and providing security assistance. It is also funneling money into the African economy by developing ports and military bases such as Eritrea’s Red Sea port of Assab and Berbera in Somaliland.
While the historical Arab powers, like Syria and Egypt, are giving blood sacrifices to keep their authority in their own geographies, the Emiratis are strategizing exceptional plans to diminish the growing influence of Non-Arab Muslim powers, like Iran and Turkey, in the greater MENA region.
The Palestinian Rage
The proponents of Trump hail it as one of the greatest diplomatic accomplishments of the U.S. in modern history, some have even critically acclaimed the president’s effort to the extent as deserving of the next Nobel Peace Prize.
Palestinians, the real price payers, believe that the unusual merger brokered by the U.S. simply washes away their decades-old struggle down the drain, and that such clearly depicts the bias of the superpower towards the Israeli regime.
The Palestinians’ trust and reliability on the Arab League have been diminishing over the years, especially because of the speculations that the Arab leaders had been involved in backdoor negotiations with the oppressors. Even if the accusations were not true, the public acceptance of Israeli narrative on international forums has hurt the sentiments of Palestinians around the world.
The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, in an interview to BBC, told that the Israeli Premier Mr.Netanyahu had plans to proceed with the final stages of annexation earlier in 2020, which the UAE government saw as the perfect opportunity to put forward its propositions to secure a viable implementation of the two-state solution.
The said minister also assured that Mr. Netanyahu would most likely stick to his promise, and would not risk his long-term desire of diplomatic relations with the Arab League. The UAE also believes that the deal has brought an opportunity for the Palestinians to rethink their approach and carve out a new one by engaging in fruitful discussions with Israel.
The U.S. Foreign Policy
The U.S. foreign policy is influenced by the powerful business lobbies with Jews as major stakeholders. With the primary objective to craft an effective solution to tame the Israeli-Arab animosity, Jared Kushner, the Middle East advisor to the President, has played his cards really well so far.
In an interview to CBSN, he proudly expresses his victory by stating that this is the first peace deal in the Middle East to happen in 26 years. The UAE and Bahrain, unlike Iraq and Syria, are immensely rich countries, and so the U.S. won’t need to give them financial aid in order to increase its influence in the region. Thus, it is understandable why the U.S. wants to help Israel achieve its diplomatic ambitions in the long-run.
President Trump strongly confides in the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and believes that he will eventually hop in the bandwagon once more countries follow suit. Moreover, the U.S. has often nudged the Arab States to pursue diplomacy with Israel rather than to risk military standoffs. Most importantly, one of the primary incentives for the U.S. to meddle in the Gulf politics is to contain and isolate Iran, one of its arch-rivals.
What about Saudi Arabia?
According to the Middle East Monitor, Saudi Arabia, the Emir of the Muslim world, has not fully endorsed the Israeli position yet, and has stated that it will proceed with diplomatic recognition of Israel once the Palestinian state is completely established. However, the regime might offer support to Israel if it adheres to the “two-state solution” regime under the UN Watch.
The reluctance of the Saudi state to fully reject the Israeli narrative and accept the UAE-Bahrain- Israel deal somehow hints about its hidden love and support for the Zionist regime. Although the Kingdom has a lot to gain by welcoming Israel on board, its current stance on the development might be the result of two dominant factors that garnered a mixed response from the Muslim world.
Firstly, inspired by the US-Israel tactics to bleed Iran, the Saudis have political and economic incentives to join hands with the two to defeat its sworn enemy. Secondly, Saudi Arabia — the custodian of two holiest Islamic sites and the owner of the world’s largest oil company (Aramco) —is the leading entity of the Muslim world and thus cannot afford rifts rising from one-sided decisions, especially with so many anti-Israel states on board, like Pakistan and Turkey.
Thus, it would prefer taking a backseat amidst the changing political landscape, and wait for someone else to take the daring move first, before actually opening up about its position on the new developments.
Sudan Joins the Fray
The Sudanese diplomatic development with Israel has emerged after three months of the US-brokered peace deal between the UAE and Israel. The Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, finally accepted a long-awaited friendly invitation from the Israeli premier to welcome and celebrate the new dawn of Middle East, burying the grudges of the past.
Most of the credit, in this regard, goes to the UAE. The UAE has been meddling in the internal affairs of Sudan for quite some, accused of sponsoring and supporting the political machinery in Eastern Sudan. Despite receiving a harsh opposition for joining the normalization wave, from the Sudanese government’s perspective, the merger was necessary to cross its name from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
Soon after the diplomatic revival between Sudan and Israel, the UAE granted over half a billion dollars in financial aid to Sudan to oil its long-rusted financial, economic, and political machinery.
Sudan also holds geographic importance in terms of easy access to the rest of the Africa from the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.
Turkey and China have already been investing in billions and trying to increase their domination in the African continent over the past years, so it is understandable that by getting Sudan in the team, the U.S. and Israel can significantly balance the growing influence of the Chinese and Turks in the region.