Israel and UAE ready to sign normalisation deal
Sep 11, 2020 | AIJAC staff
Update from AIJAC
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel are reportedly set to formally sign their normalisation deal on Tuesday, September 15 at the White House. The deal was agreed to in principle last month, and talks about it were held in the UAE after an Israeli plane brought a delegation there on August 31. This Update looks at various aspects and implications of the deal, now that it is confirmed to be definitely formalised in a signed agreement.
We lead with an analysis of the overall significance of this new agreement from Brig. (res) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former senior military intelligence officer and leading Israeli strategic analyst. He says the deal is a historic turning point, which will ultimately see Israel fully becoming part of the “pragmatic camp” in the Middle East, thus both achieving a long-standing Israeli strategic goal and strengthening that camp against the region’s radicals. He also discusses the Palestinian position in the wake of this new configuration – weakened, but with a chance to have some new options if they adopt a moderate and realistic approach. For all the details of Kuperwasser’s analysis of these and other key points regarding the deal’s implications, CLICK HERE.
Next up, David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro expand on the opportunities the UAE normalisation could provide the Palestinians if they choose to take them. They suggest that just as Jordan and Egypt have helped improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in various ways, the UAE can also do so, and has already contributed to peace by convincing Israel to cancel plans to apply sovereignty to areas of the West Bank as permitted by the Trump Administration peace plan. They also note that the notion that blocking ties between Israel and the Arab world would force Israeli concessions has never worked, and suggest that states with relations with Israel are better able to advance Palestinian interests. For the rest of their argument about the potential Palestinian opportunities opening up, CLICK HERE.
Finally, top Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari looks ahead to what might follow the UAE-Israel signing ceremony in Washington. Yaari is sceptical that the deal will quickly lead other Arab states to follow suit, and he reviews the various states and why he suggests they may adopt a “wait and see” attitude. He also explores the deal as a consequence of what he dubs “Netanyahu’s bypass doctrine”, whereby Israel seeks to bypass the Palestinian veto on Israeli relations with the rest of the world in order to ultimately force the Palestinian leadership to review their current policies and end the impasse these have created. As always, Yaari offers some unique insights and background – to read them all, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in…
- In a significant sign of the evolving Middle East situation, the Palestinians failed on Wednesday to get any sort of Arab League condemnation of normalisation of relations with Israel.
- US President Donald Trump has suggested another Arab country may join the Israel-UAE ceremony next week. Plus, a report that UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed will visit Jerusalem after the deal is signed.
- The US says Saudi Arabia has promised to allow all flights from Israel to use its airspace, which would greatly shorten travel times to and from Israel to the east, including from Australia.
- British Muslim activist Ed Hussein argues that the Israel-UAE deal is a win for all Muslims, showing Muslims can indeed be purveyors of peace. Plus, Israeli scholars Ofir Winter and Yoel Guzansky look at the Muslim religious debates on the UAE deal, and how they show that Islamic religious law can play a positive role in mustering broad-based public support for peace.
- A report that former British PM Tony Blair played a key role in kickstarting Israel-UAE ties.
- Some discussion of the economic potential of Israel-UAE trade from a marketing academic. Plus a UAE company becomes the first to open an office in Israel.
- A discussion of potential UAE-Israel cooperation on food and water published at the Perth-based Future Directions Institute.
- With coronavirus cases spiralling, Israel appears set to return to lockdown from next week.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- Judy Maynard dissects how Al Jazeera’s coverage of the UAE deal reflects the network’s actual status as a pro-Islamist propaganda outlet of the Qatari government.
- Naomi Levin reveals how leading figures in the charity Islamic Relief Australia have been in hot water overseas, yet the charity continues to be endorsed by the Australian government.
- A short AIJAC video on the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the “Dunera Boys” – 2,542 mostly Jewish refugees from Europe sent to Australia as “enemy aliens”, many of whom went on to become leading lights of Australian society.
- Video of an AIJAC webinar with leading Interfaith activist – and frequent visitor to the UAE and other Persian Gulf nations – Rabbi David Rosen, on the subject of “Jewish-Muslim Relations and Arab-Israeli Peace.”
- An upcoming AIJAC webinar with American Iran expert Behnam Ben Talebluon Sept. 15.
A historic turning point
Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Sept. 1, 2020
The normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, with American mediation, is a strategic and historic turning point in Israel’s relations with both the Arab world and Palestinians.
For the first time, there is a “warm peace” between Israel and an Arab state, where both sides see the mutual advantage of scientific, economic, cultural and strategic cooperation. In contrast, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians maintained “cold relations” with Israel that were meant to extract the maximum concessions from Israel while minimizing normalization with it.
With this diplomatic achievement, Israel is taking a huge step towards one of its long-term strategic goals—integration into the region. Although Israel’s ties with the pragmatic Arab camp have been known for some time, this normalization agreement reflects how vital it is for the members of this camp to have a relationship with Israel.
Furthermore, the positive reactions to the agreement by most of the countries of the pragmatic camp indicate that this is not a controversial move for them. This dramatic change was possible due to the threat that the pragmatic camp members feel from the various elements in the radical camp – from Iran and its satellites, from Sunni extremists and, in particular, from the Muslim Brotherhood, headed by Erdoğan’s Turkey.
The pragmatic camp members feel that the radicals are weaker, which allows them to break through barriers in their relationship with Israel. They also believe that they cannot rely on American support if Democrats win the November 2020 elections. All this sharpens their need to ally with Israel, which is perceived as a powerful country in the region that dares to act against the extremists and will not change its position.
The UAE was encouraged to make this dramatic move in normalizing relations with Israel by the Trump administration, which deferred the declaration of Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria as proposed in the US “Peace to Prosperity” vision and offered to sell advanced weapons to the Emirates. The Emirates seized the opportunity as long as Trump is president, and as a way to improve his chances of being re-elected.
The ‘glass ceiling’ has been shattered
The imaginary barrier that allegedly prevented the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel as long as Israel does not surrender to the Palestinian demands has been shattered. This demand was formulated by an Arab dictate to Israel, better known as the “Arab Peace Initiative.” It turned out that this was an unfounded threat that served the Palestinians and the advocates of Israeli concessions.
Against this background, there is a possibility that the success of this process will convince other countries in the pragmatic camp to normalize their relations with Israel fully or partially during the current US administration. Saudi Arabia’s agreement to permit direct flights between Israel and the Emirates over its territory could be an example of a partial normalization of relations.
Impact on the Palestinians
It is not surprising that the Palestinians are furious over the Israel-UAE deal: It has cost the Palestinians one of their two main levers of influence over Israel.
In the Palestinian context, the move has brought about a significant and multidimensional change. It is no wonder that the Palestinians are furious at the latest development, although they will now not face the significant threat of Israel declaring sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and other parts of Judea and Samaria, at least for a long time.
The significant changes brought about by the new development in the Palestinian context are:
- It critically damaged the Palestinians’ ability to exert pressure on Israel within the terms of a peace agreement to return to the pre-1967 lines with minor modifications and to demand the establishment of a Palestinian state that will not recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
- Before the presentation of the US peace initiative, there were two main options on the table in the Palestinian context. The first was the adoption of the two-state paradigm in its Palestinian version, backed by the Democrats in the United States, Europe and the Israeli left. The second was the continuation of the status quo.
- The agreement with the Emirates enables two options—either to continue the status quo or to implement Trump’s peace initiative, including the application of Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria. At this point, the status quo may continue for a long time, especially if the Democrats win the elections. However, the possibility of applying sovereignty remains a future alternative, and its status may be strengthened if the Emirates change their position regarding the agreement.
- The Palestinians have actually lost one of their main levers of influence—the ability to prevent normalization between Israel and the Arab states. In recent years, this Palestinian lever had already been weakened, but with the new development, it nearly evaporated. The other Palestinian lever—the ability to impose a veto and prevent changes on the ground without Palestinian consent—eroded as well, it but still exists.
- As a result, the Palestinians now face Israel from a position of greater weakness. They still have several tools left, such as the support of growing groups in the US Democratic Party, blind European support, and the support of the radical camp (Iran and its satellites, Turkey and Qatar). The Palestinians also have the ability to use force and to leverage their presence on the ground, which forces Israel, which does not want to rule over them, and the international system to deal with their cause.
The pragmatic Muslim camp no longer considers itself dependent on the Palestinians, while it takes care of its own vital interests. The Palestinian cause is a low priority for members of this camp, and they are fed up with the Palestinian leadership. The severity of this development is heightened in light of the tremendous effort that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has invested in recent years in preventing such Arab-Israeli normalization. He recognizes that the chances of the realization of normalization are increasing. This is the background for the great frustration and fury of the Palestinians. If more countries follow the UAE path, the Palestinians will completely lose their ability to veto normalization.
In this situation, the Palestinians might feel increasing pressure to re-examine the path they have chosen so far and their adherence to the problematic and false narrative they continue to adopt, according to which there is no Jewish people and Jews do not have a history of sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The need for such a re-examination will increase if Trump wins the upcoming election. Adherence to this narrative has already cost the Palestinians the loss of American aid as well as the imposing of Israeli and international sanctions.
Up until now, the Palestinians responded by increasing their adherence to this narrative, for example, by strengthening the commitment to pay salaries to terrorists, adopting a policy of Palestinian anti-normalization with Israel, severing ties with Israel in security and civilian matters and refusing to receive tax money collected for them by Israel. It is likely that they will continue to act this way, but there is still a chance that other voices will be heard among them as well. Self-examination might also influence the nature of the leadership that directs the Palestinians in this path. This self-examination might lead to two opposite directions—either establishing a more radical leadership that favors a violent struggle without the sophistication that characterizes Abbas, or a more moderate one.
The alternative rationale for the current Palestinian way of thinking may emerge precisely from the agreement by setting the goals of economic well-being and a democratic regime as more urgent and essential than liberating all of Palestine in stages. The United States and the UAE may present new options to the Palestinians as a tempting alternative to the current failure. It is highly doubtful whether the conditions for such a change are ripe; however, they may be ready to at least raise the idea and open discussions on the matter.
Israel is joining the regional pragmatic camp
One of the significant results of the UAE-Israel understanding is the strengthening of the regional pragmatic camp, with Israel openly joining its ranks. There is no doubt that Israel sees this as a very desirable change, which will improve the ability of this camp to curb the hostile radical camp. This change is part of a general trend empowering the pragmatic camp and weakening the radicals during the Trump era, through sanctions on Iran and its allies, the growing threat to the regimes that rely on Iran in the region, Israeli activity against Iran’s penetration into Syria, and more.
The question is how this change will be leveraged by the pragmatists and what commitments will be demanded of Israel. It is already clear that the pragmatists will try to leverage this normalization to obtain advanced weapons from the United States. They will expect Israel to suppress excessive opposition to the arms deals, despite Israel’s fundamental and well-known opposition to arms sales that could jeopardize its qualitative military edge.
It is likely that some countries will also expect to receive “soft” Israeli assistance, for example, in intelligence, consulting and military technology, to improve their performance in their confrontation with their radical rivals. If this Israeli assistance proved helpful, it would be the best proof of the benefits for these countries to maintain normal relations with Israel. This goes beyond the benefits the pragmatists will derive from civilian cooperation with Israel in science, economics, medicine, tourism and the like.
However, where the pragmatists have the most expectations from cooperation with Israel is in curbing Iran’s pursuit of regional hegemony and the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The pragmatists expect Israel to persuade the United States to adhere to its policy of restraining Iran. At the same time, they expect Israel to continue to act on its own to ensure that these goals are achieved. Israel is willing to do so in any case and has already proven its importance in this regard. However, the pragmatists will value Israel’s activities even more if Biden wins the elections.
Israel suspends sovereignty initiative
Israel suspends sovereignty initiative
An interesting question is whether the strategic benefits of the agreement, as detailed so far, justify the price Israel allegedly paid to achieve it, that is, its agreement to suspend declaring sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria as well as the Jordan Valley.
The normalisation has effectively rendered Israeli plans to extend sovereignty to areas of the West Bank irrelevant, Kuperwasser argues.
It appears that Israel did not really have the opportunity to extend its sovereignty to these areas. Already in the second half of May, during his visit to Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo learned from his talks with Defense Minister Benny Ganz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi about their reservations regarding this step. In addition, the US administration decided not to support the implementation of the plan since it received adverse reactions from Arab and international players. Moreover, the administration feared that the implementation of the plan could damage Israeli and American interests, as well as Trump’s chances of being re-elected.
Obviously, it was not logical or possible for Israel to apply sovereignty without American support. Therefore, the move was postponed and, in effect, became irrelevant. As I wrote then, one of the ways to persuade Israel to abandon the idea of declaring sovereignty was to promote normalization. This way, by giving up on the impractical option, Israel had an excuse, which allowed all parties to take this important step and even present it as an achievement for the Palestinians. In other words, this is a considerable strategic achievement for Israel in return for an imaginary price.
The realization of the sovereignty initiative could have been an even more significant strategic achievement. However, Israel would have had to pay an exorbitant price for it. In any case, as stated, it could not have been realized without American support. The normalization is a win-win-win situation because the other partners to the agreement—the Emirates and the United States—also achieved important goals without paying a heavy price. The common interest for all the parties to the agreement is strengthening the pragmatic camp in the region against its radical enemies. This common interest brought about this agreement at this time.
In conclusion, the agreement is a historic achievement for Israel, the UAE, the United States and the pragmatic camp. It creates a potential for further achievements at the regional level and in the Palestinian context. To realize this potential, it is vital to continue progress in the normalization process, with a significant commitment to success and meaningful investment in the process.
IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He formerly served as director general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence.
Here’s how Palestinians could benefit from the diplomatic deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates
by David Makovsky and Daniel B. Shapiro
Washington Post, September 10, 2020
An Opportunity missed?: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a joint meeting of the Palestinian leadership on August 18, 2020, to denounce Israel’s normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates (Courtesy: Wafa)
Some observers seem to assume that the recent agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates means the end of efforts to achieve a reasonable, two-state outcome to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Some Israelis may hope that improving relations with Arab states would obviate the need for further negotiations with the Palestinians.
Yet the Palestinians are not going anywhere, and the reality is that Israel cannot retain its core character as both a Jewish and democratic state if it ignores the Palestinian issue. Fortunately, those who still seek a two-state solution have no cause for despair. The Emirati-Israeli breakthrough could be a much-needed bridge to overcoming the current impasse. Skillful diplomacy could use normalization as a base for renewed momentum toward two states.
History and common sense both show that Arab states that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel play a more active role in supporting Palestinian aspirations than those who do not. Arab states that have normalized relations, namely Egypt and Jordan, have mostly used their peace agreements with Israel to help facilitate Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and discourage both parties from taking unwise steps.
Egypt and Israel have worked closely together quietly to keep a truce between Israel and Gaza going for the past year and a half. Jordan has, in the past, partnered with the United States to shape Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic discussions. Most recently, a warning by Jordan’s King Abdullah II against Israel annexing portions of the West Bank played an important role in taking that option off the table. Israel had something to lose with Jordan and did not want to incur the risk.
The UAE-Israel deal provides the opportunity for the UAE to play a similar role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace. This already began with the deal itself, which the UAE conditioned on annexation not taking place with the support of the Trump administration. (Joe Biden has already expressed his opposition to annexation, meaning the idea would be off the table for the next four years regardless of the result of the presidential election.)
Burying annexation keeps the prospects for two states alive and, in the shorter term, is essential for restoring the Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation that has been a key stabilizing force in the West Bank for more than a decade.
Additional Arab states that speak directly to Israel may be better positioned to influence its leaders and people than those that boycott. Conversely, there is little evidence that blocking ties between the Arab world and Israel would succeed in obtaining Israeli concessions.
Moreover, Arab states with resources, such as the UAE, could provide important incentives to the Palestinian Authority. Specifically, this would mean dramatically scaled-up economic assistance to stabilize the institutions that can, as negotiations progress, become the building blocks of a future Palestinian state. The UAE has given generously to the Palestinians in the past and, the current spat aside, can quickly resume and increase assistance.
Supportive Arab states could also influence Palestinian leaders to adopt more realistic positions on certain final-status issues, such as acknowledging that Palestinian refugees cannot return to Israel according to pre-1967 borders and that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state. They could also persuade Palestinians to definitively reject the use of violence.
A U.S. administration that reestablishes support for a realistic two-state outcome can try to marshal the UAE breakthrough to supplement its own diplomatic efforts. Two states are not achievable in the short term due a variety of factors, ranging from differences between the leaders on both sides to divisions within both Palestinian and Israeli societies. Looming Palestinian succession is another complicating factor.
The key is to use the breakthrough to expand the circle of peace. This means taking significant gradual steps on the ground to convince both Palestinians and Israelis that the other side is serious, while describing an end state that delivers true (demilitarized) statehood for Palestinians alongside security for Israel.
That will require shelving many aspects of the Trump plan. In its current form, it denies the Palestinians a viable state with even a modicum of sovereignty. It also harms Israeli security by drawing circuitous new boundaries, increasing the likelihood of friction, and failing to disentangle Israeli and Palestinian communities, creating a one-state reality that endangers Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Working toward two states is good for a robust U.S.-Israel relationship as well. The relationship has deepened over the decades based on common regional interests and shared democratic values. Common interests bind governments, but shared values bind peoples. Helping Palestinians advance toward and ultimately achieve their right to statehood would boost Israel’s credibility among its American critics.
American support and Israel’s economic dynamism have enabled Arab states to realize that Israel — as a senior Emirati official put it — is “an opportunity, not an enemy.” As Israel becomes more accepted in the region, Arab states, Israel and the Palestinians, with strong U.S. leadership, can work together to resolve one of the unresolved problems of the Middle East.
David Makovsky, the Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as a senior adviser focusing on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the State Department during the Obama administration. Daniel B. Shapiro is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and served as the U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration.
THE ROAD BEYOND UAE-ISRAEL NORMALIZATION
by Ehud Yaari
PolicyWatch 3375, September 10, 2020
Netanyahu’s strategy of bypassing the intractable Palestinian issue has paid substantial dividends worldwide, but a peace treaty ‘domino effect’ is unlikely in the near term given various calculations in Riyadh and other Arab capitals.
Israeli PM Netanyahu with the late Sultan Qaboos of Oman in 2018: Netanyahu has built strong relations with several Arab states, but most will likely wait and see before following the UAE’s example.
To the extent that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his rivals in Israel’s fragile coalition government find time to spare from their uphill battle against the coronavirus pandemic, they are trying to chart a course for building on the momentum of their recent deal with the United Arab Emirates. The treaty—set to be signed September 15 at a White House ceremony—heralds the potential crumbling of official Arab refusal to recognize Israel as long as the Palestinian problem remains unresolved. It also carries the promise of rapidly constructing warm, active relations with the most dynamic state in the Persian Gulf, unlike the restricted, often cold peace Israel has with Egypt and Jordan.
Israelis understand the principal factor that motivated Emirati leader Muhammad bin Zayed to break ranks and unlock the shackles of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API): he sought to secure preferential status with the United States ahead of the November presidential election and upgrade the UAE’s armed forces. Yet he also intends to access Israeli technologies and know-how in the economic, military, and security domains. The question is what role other Arab states will play in facilitating that progress and making normalization moves of their own.
NETANYAHU’S BYPASS DOCTRINE
Although he has never fully elaborated it in his writings or speeches, Netanyahu has refined his strategy on the Palestinian issue to a simple realpolitikal formula over the past decade. It boils down to the following: an “end of conflict, end of claims” settlement with the Palestinians is currently unattainable on his terms, so he must therefore snatch away the longstanding Palestinian veto over Israeli relations with the rest of the world, especially the Arab states. According to this doctrine, the more Israel succeeds in forging healthy systems of cooperation with leading regional and international powers, the more it will pressure Palestinian leaders to review their current policies.
The strategy of bypassing the Palestinians has already provided Israel with substantial dividends. Close relationships have been established with myriad states that previously pursued negative or even hostile policies toward Israel.
Most prominently, official cooperation is expanding with Asian powers such as India, Japan, and Vietnam, while informal ties are growing with Indonesia. In a sense, Israel has performed its own undeclared “pivot to Asia” in the economic and security domains.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Cypriot President Anastasides, and Greek Prime Minister Tsipras om 2016: Relations with Greece, Cyprus and other Mediterranean nations has been a key part of Netanyahu’s “bypass strategy”
In Europe, a de facto alliance has emerged with Cyprus and Greece (previously the European Union’s biggest critic of Israel). A wider system of cooperation over East Mediterranean natural gas fields is in effect with Italy and other partners, while friendly diplomatic ties have been cultivated with most East and Central European states.
Elsewhere, current Russian policy in the region often takes Israeli interests into consideration, and Moscow generally manifests a friendly approach to the Jewish state. Close cooperation has also been revived with a bloc of East African states, and efforts to build a similar framework with the Muslim counties of the Sahel are underway. Many Latin American capitals have likewise sought to improve their relations with Israel.
In light of such progress, many in Israel have been holding their breath for additional Arab states to quickly announce UAE-style agreements of their own. Yet they are bound to be disappointed—for many of these countries, reconciliation with Israel entails more complicated calculations. Although a few regional governments have voiced support for the UAE deal, all prefer to assess the ramifications of this dramatic event before making further moves.
PROSPECTS FOR SAUDI NORMALIZATION
The main player in regional normalization, Saudi Arabia, has taken a measured approach instead of rushing ahead as President Trump is urging. For one thing, Riyadh realizes that the Emiratis are not interested in becoming part of a pack right now; rather, they want to enjoy the benefits of a solo statesmanship performance at next week’s White House treaty ceremony. Indeed, Abu Dhabi did not inform the Saudis about the deal until nearly the last minute. For this and other reasons, Riyadh signaled Bahrain that it should defer its own normalization plans with Israel, which have been the subject of debate in Manama for the past two years.
At the same time, the Saudis have taken steps to support the UAE deal even as they reaffirmed their adherence to the principles of the API. They quickly approved use of their airspace for flights between Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Tel Aviv, cutting travel time by hours. They have also pressured the Palestinian Authority to stop insulting the accord publicly, and to prevent demonstrators from setting Emirati flags on fire.
Meanwhile, Saudi media outlets have denounced the Palestinian leadership and touted the benefits of peace with Israel. One typical article, published September 2 in Okaz, described President Mahmoud Abbas and his associates as “thieves.” The author then argued that the interests of the people living in Gaza and the West Bank compel “wise Arabs” to distance themselves from the “gangs of political opportunism” and negotiate with Israel to ensure comprehensive peace in the region. In the religious sphere, the highest-ranking imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, hailed the Prophet Muhammad’s good relations with Jews during his Friday sermon on September 4.
More important, secret communications with Riyadh have made Jerusalem quite confident that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is bent on normalizing relations at some future date, despite objections by some in the Royal Court and his father’s reluctance to abandon the API. In Abu Dhabi, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed justified his agreement with Israel by noting that it prevented annexation of some areas in the West Bank from proceeding; his Saudi counterpart seeks a Palestinian achievement of his own to justify departing from traditional Saudi policy. Accordingly, Riyadh has supported Egypt and Jordan’s efforts to convince President Abbas that he should resume negotiations with Israel under the auspices of a “Quartet plus Arab partners” formula. Abbas has flatly rejected the idea, instead opening limited coordination with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in order to “isolate” the UAE-Israel deal and deter other Arab states from forging agreements of their own.
CALCULATIONS IN OTHER ARAB STATES
The Saudi hesitation to act without some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front is affecting other candidates for normalization. In the Gulf, King Hamad of Bahrain has intensified his discussions with Israel and is seeking clarification about increased American assistance.
In Sudan, Generals Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo keep assuring Israel that they intend to normalize but note that they must take into account resistance from the left-wing civilian government. Israel’s request to use Sudanese airspace for flights between Tel Aviv and Latin America is currently under favorable discussion there.
In Oman, Sultan Haitham is reshuffling the government that served under his predecessor; this transition and his country’s delicate relations with Iran make him more inclined to take a back seat. In Morocco, King Mohammed VI’s relations with the UAE are strained, and although his country has maintained fruitful relations with Israel for decades, he does not feel the time is ripe for a bold leap. Mauritania, whose diplomatic relations with Israel are suspended, is currently preoccupied by a recent military coup that elevated officers with little experience on the international stage. Other Arab states have distanced themselves from the Emirati normalization model—most notably Tunisia, which in the past exchanged “interest sections” with Israel.
Establishing incremental normalization arrangements with several states appears to be the likeliest route for near-term development of the Arab-Israel peace process, as opposed to an imminent series of historic UAE-style accords. The United States can help accelerate the pace of this gradual transformation by brokering, sponsoring, or taking part in specific initiatives. The most important step is to ensure rapid success of the UAE normalization deal as a model for other potential partners, encouraging them to surround the Palestinians with an Arab-Israel “peace belt” that ultimately convinces Ramallah to seek a deal.
Ehud Yaari is a Lafer International Fellow with The Washington Institute and a veteran commentator for Israeli television.