Israel-UAE Abraham Accord 2020
When a Palestinian man was asked about the normalization of diplomatic relations and the peace agreement between UAE and Israel, with anger in his eyes he said, “We have been stabbed in the back”. After Egypt and Jordan, UAE is now the third country to have recognized, legitimized and initiated diplomatic ties with the state of Israel. Palestinians had no part in the negotiations. Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump have hailed the Abraham Accord as a diplomatic breakthrough after decades. The Western countries have rallied behind the United States for brokering the agreement and moving a step further in giving legitimacy to Israel’s occupation. The pretext given by UAE is that as a result of the Abraham Accord, Israel will suspend annexation of the West Bank, temporarily, to say the least. This peace agreement and normalization of relations by a rich Muslim/Arab country is a massive diplomatic blow to the cause of Gaza and Palestine. Once again, it seems that significance of strategic alliance, benefits of commerce and power have taken over ideals of justice, human rights, brotherhood and freedom. Today, the world is a little more insecure and unjust than before.
The most critical factor to be considered when analyzing the Abraham Accord is its timing. Covid-19 pandemic has done unprecedented damage to the economies of both the United States and Israel and leaders of both nations have failed to mount an appropriate response to the outbreaks. Millions of jobs have been lost. The health infrastructure has failed to produce the required results. Trump is even in more hot waters than Netanyahu who barely made it out of corruption charges. In America, the Black Lives Matter movement has polarized the electorate in favour of the Democrats unless a miracle campaign turns it around. Both leaders needed a diplomatic victory and UAE was pushed with the right incentives to come forward. Without a doubt, the UAE-Israel agreement will be used in the United States and Israel to score points and win voters. The ties between UAE and Israel were already established through the back-door channels. 2020 was the right time to bring out the relationship as a spectacular breakthrough, obviously for motives that have nothing to do with peace in the Middle East.
The second important feature to consider is what the peace agreement means for UAE. In 1971, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan referred to Israel as the enemy. As they say, “the apple has fallen far away from the tree”, Prince Muhammad bin Zayed has now opened the country to diplomatic, trade, defence and commercial ties. It should not come as a surprise that shortly after the announcement of the Peace Agreement; the United States unveiled the sale of advanced F-35 jets to UAE. That is a short term benefit. UAE is a rich country with oil and massive trade opportunities. The trade between UAE and Israel is only 3 Million Dollars which will now be boosted to around 350 Million Dollars. Israel has been provided by the US with state-of-the-art technology in defence and Warfare which will now be shared with UAE. Further, Israel is the hub of Jewish business bloc which will create new opportunities for the UAE. With deep pockets, UAE can pay for a new range of weaponry and technology and Israel would be more than ready to provide the equipment needed. This is apart from the geostrategic implications of the peace agreement.
Saudi Arabia and UAE have held close relations with the United States and now with Israel in countering the influence of Iran and Turkey in the region. Iran, despite sanctions and economic deprivation, has managed to exercise a forceful presence in the Middle East. In Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Iranian influence continues to grow. Also, Iran remains the most dominant threat to Israel occupation in support of Hezbollah and Hamas. UAE has dived into diplomatic ties with Israel in hopes to create a defence line against Iran. Although, Iran has never posed any threat to the UAE, still, an alliance with the likes of the United States and Israel would prove to be a significant step in becoming a major power in the region. The cause of Palestine has been put on the back burner to ensure regional prowess. The diplomatic cover being used by UAE is that as a result of the peace agreement, Israel will temporarily suspend the annexation of Palestinian lands into Israel. The emphasis is on the word “temporarily”. Donald Trump in his Oval Office Press Conference termed the annexation of West Bank into Israel as suspended, for the time being. Erdogan of Turkey had only one word to comment on the UAE pretext for the Peace Accord; “disgraceful”. Ironically, on the other hand, the UAE continues to support military campaigns in Yemen and Libya to kill fellow Muslims.
The Abraham Accord has come as a shock to the people of Palestine. This is a black day for people suffering at the hands of the Israeli army. This diplomatic victory for Israel will reverberate in the United Nations. It creates the narrative for more countries to recognize Israel and legitimize its occupation. Egypt fought four wars with Israel for Palestine and Jordan has fought three wars with Israel. With the support of the United States, they could not succeed and with pressure tactics, Egypt resumed diplomatic ties with Israel in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. But UAE has no border with Israel. It has never gone to war for Palestine. It is a far off nation that is rich and prosperous. The Abraham Accord will force the Palestinian argument of independence and liberation of their occupied lands into further submission. Following the announcement, Palestinians took to the streets in protest and heavy fire resumed from the Israeli side. The next day, Israeli jets bombed the Gaza strip injuring scores of civilians.
The World is closer to diffraction with the Abraham Accord. The plight of Palestinians forgotten and voices of justice, morality and freedom simply ignored. The Arab-US-Israel Tri-lateral alliance against Iran and Turkey is soon to be a reality. This alliance is heavily up against a formidable alliance between China, Iran and Russia. China is set to unveil its own defence and trade coalition to counter United States satellite countries, although, China, for now, has accepted and welcomed the Abraham Accord. Many smaller countries will be forced to choose sides.
Following the announcement, Imran Khan came out as a leader of ideals. In his message, he clearly created the same argument for Palestine which he expounds for Kashmir. Self-determination for Palestinians is the voice of Pakistanis. Protests have broken out in condemnation of UAE-Israel agreement in many cities across the country. Pakistan as a country has gone through its own crisis of diplomatic corners dealing with the Western bloc, especially the United States. The autocrats of the Arab World are making deals that are against the wishes of their people. Pakistan as a truly democratic country is committed to the idea of Muslim unity and freedom for Palestine. After the response message from the Government of Pakistan, the embassy of Palestine in Islamabad formally gave a vote of thanks to the people of Pakistan. In pursuit of progress, power and influence, sacrificing the voice and freedom of Muslim brethren is not the forte of the people of Pakistan. Freedom for Palestine!
(The Writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation)