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Insights into Editorial: Limited peace: On UAE-Israel peace agreement

UAE _Israel

Context:

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have announced an agreement that will lead to a full normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two states, a move that reshapes the order of West Asia politics from the Palestinian issue to Iran.

The peace agreement reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has formalised the thaw in Arab-Israeli relations that has been under way for a few years. As part of the deal announced by U.S.

President Trump, the UAE would recognise the state of Israel and establish formal diplomatic relations, while Israel would halt its controversial plan to annex swathes of the Palestinian West Bank.

The agreement will be known as the Abraham Accords.

Overview of the agreement:

Trilateral agreement: The agreement was the product of lengthy discussions between Israel, the UAE and the US that accelerated recently.

Under the accord, Israel has agreed to suspend annexing areas of the occupied West Bank as it had been planning to do.

It also firms up opposition to regional power Iran, which the UAE, Israel and the US view as the main threat in the region.

Peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates:

  1. The UAE has become the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties with Israel.
  2. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.
  3. Under the deal, Israel would suspend its plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.
  4. The West Bank is sandwiched between Israel and Jordan. One of its major cities is Ramallah, the de facto administrative capital of Palestine.
  5. Israel took control of it in the Six-day Arab-Israeli war, 1967 and has over the years established settlements there.
  6. A joint statement from the USA, the UAE and Israel has been issued which says that delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care.
  7. Both nations will also partner on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic together.
  8. It remains unclear what prompted Israel and the UAE to make the announcement now.
  9. In June 2020, the UAE’s ambassador to the USA warned that Israel’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank would upend Israel’s efforts to improve ties with Arab nations.

It is a landmark agreement given that the UAE is only the third Arab country and the first in the Gulf recognising Israel.

It could pave the way for the region’s Sunni Arab kingdoms and the Jewish-majority Israel enhancing regional cooperation against their common foe, Shia Iran.

Israel has said it would focus on “expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world”, while the U.S. has expressed hope that more Arab countries would follow the UAE’s lead — Arab-Israeli relations have largely been conflict-ridden ever since the state of Israel was declared in 1948.

The U.S. had arranged several meetings between Israeli and Emirati officials last year, which probably laid the foundations for the agreement.

Why has UAE signed a peace deal with Israel?

While the deal has the potential to change Arab-Israeli relations for good, it also shows how the Arab countries are gradually decoupling themselves from the Palestine question.

The UAE offered full diplomatic recognition in return for Israel’s suspension of a planned annexation, not for any relaxation of the actual occupation.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, Israel made peace with an Arab country without “our returning to the 1967 borders”.

The Arab Peace Initiative, a Saudi Arabia initiative endorsed by the Arab League, offered recognition to Israel in exchange for its full withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Ironically, the UAE’s peace agreement comes close on the heels of the Trump administration’s back-to-back decisions to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights.

Clearly, the UAE has moved away from the Arab initiative. The question now is whether the Emiratis would be able to press the Jewish state to relax its inhuman and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and start talks between the occupier and the occupied.

If it cannot, the UAE-Israel deal would be of little significance for the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership, on its part, should understand the emerging reality in West Asia — the Arab-Israel conflict is coming to a close, but the Palestine-Israel conflict is to continue without any respite.

India hails UAE-Israel pact, reiterates Palestine cause:

India has consistently supported peace, stability and development in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood.

In that context, India welcome the full normalization of ties between UAE and Israel.

New Delhi will also need to watch ties with Iran, which has slammed the agreement and will see Arab-Israeli tie-ups as a direct threat to its security.

The deal opens up new opportunities for India to play a much larger role in the regional security and stability in the Gulf, where New Delhi enjoys special relations with both Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem.

This is a region where India has deep stakes in terms of energy supplies and expatriate populations.

India should use this unexpected opportunity to give itself a bigger role in a region which is its strategic backyard.

  1. The first step should be to ramp up defence and security relations with UAE.
  2. Israel is already a very close defence partner. But India should restart joint exercises with UAE, and even Saudi Arabia.
  3. While some work has already happened, India should leverage its economy for a bigger opening in this region.
  4. Importantly, India can use its good offices to ensure that any future deal on a regional security framework gives adequate space to Iran, which may be weak
  5. but not so weak that it cannot be a hugely disruptive power if it so chooses. A balance between Shia and Sunni, between Persian and Arab, is key to any sustainable peace.
  6. In recent years, China has indicated its willingness to play a larger role in this region, and is close to both UAE and Israel and, increasingly, Saudi Arabia.

Major diplomatic victory for USA:

The timing of the agreement is also significant. It gives a major diplomatic victory for President Trump a few months before election.

Mr. Trump’s Iran policy failed to clinch any result. His outreach to North Korea is still inconclusive.

The U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban is on surge.

The U.S.’s ties with China have hit rock bottom. President Trump wanted a diplomatic victory, and his closest allies in West Asia, of course driven by regional factors, have given him one.

If more Arab countries open ties with Israel in the coming months, President Trump could claim a major diplomatic breakthrough in the Arab-Israel relations, which had seen at least four major wars in the past.

Conclusion:

India should make its moves before this market and this extended neighbourhood come under the Chinese sphere of influence.

The deal marks a historic day and a significant step forward for peace in the Middle East.

Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations.