Israel–Arab Peace Deal 2020
Within the span of only a month, the United States has brokered peace between Israel and two Arab countries—first the United Arab Emirates, then Bahrain. Both deals are revolutionary in scop. By normalizing ties and focusing on business, trade, and travel, these “warm peace” agreements go beyond the often tenuous “cold peace” that Egypt and Jordan made with the Jewish state decades ago. Not only do the UAE and Bahrain deals set the stage for a sea change in Arab-Israeli relations, but they might even present a novel opportunity to finally solve the most intractable issue between the two sides: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is likely that Saudi Arabia, other GCC countries and some Muslim countries will follow UAE’s lead, as the roadmap of the Trump Peace Plan unfolds. Among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, Oman and Qatar have also had informal relations with Israel for quite some time. Israel-Qatar trade ties began in 1996 and trade offices continued to function till 2009 when these offices were closed owing to Qatar’s support to the Hamas government in Gaza and the second Palestinian Intifada (Uprising).
Ties between Israel and the Gulf have grown exponentially in recent years. Underpinned by the common threat from Iran, what began as whispers of covert intelligence cooperation gradually transformed to increasingly public signs of amity. Gulf leaders have acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, Israel’s flag has flown at sporting events, and Israeli officials have been allowed to visit. This process culminated in last month’s UAE-Israel deal, which seeks to break a major taboo in Arab-Israeli relations by establishing deep bilateral ties not just between Israeli and Emirati officialdom or security establishments, but between their peoples. That deal provides the necessary cover for other Gulf states to follow suit.
Saudi Arabia’s ‘Role’ In Israeli-UAE Agreement
The Palestinian issue is, perhaps, the most intractable problem which has caused the Arab and the Muslim countries to boycott Israel ever since the latter’s creation. The Camp David Accords of 1979 led to the peace deal with Egypt, and Jordan signed the second peace deal in 1994. Both Egypt and Jordan have welcomed the deal. Both countries have maintained diplomatic relations with Israel. The Israeli-UAE agreement is the third peace deal. The timing of the agreement is a boost for President Trump’s flagging prospects in the forthcoming November election, and a foreign policy triumph for PM Netanyahu, battling corruption charges.
Significance of Peace deal
The Gulf states see opportunities for trade and more
The deal helps the ambitious Emiratis, who have built themselves into a military power as well as a place to do business or go on holiday. It looks as if the Americans helped seal the deal with the promise of advanced weapons that in the past the UAE has barely been able to window-shop. They include the F-35 stealth fighter and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. The UAE has used its already well-equipped armed forces in Libya and Yemen. But its most serious potential enemy is Iran, just on the other side of the Gulf.
Israel lessens its regional isolation
Normalising relations with the UAE and Bahrain is a genuine achievement for the Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a believer in the strategy first described in the 1920s of an “Iron Wall” between the Jewish state and the Arabs. The idea is that Israeli strength will in the end make the Arabs realise that their only choice is to acknowledge its existence. Israelis do not like being isolated in the Middle East. Peace with Egypt and Jordan has never been warm. They might be more hopeful about future relations with Gulf countries a long way from the cockpit of Jerusalem and the occupied territories.
New strategic Challenge for Iran
The deal has been roundly condemned by the Iranian leadership. It is more than rhetoric. The Abraham Accords put them under extra strain. President Trump’s sanctions are already causing real economic pain. Now they have a strategic headache too.
Israel’s home airbases are a long flight from Iran. The UAE’s are just across the waters of the Gulf. That would be highly significant if there was a return to talk of air strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites.
The Palestinians feel betrayed
They have condemned the Abraham Accords as a betrayal. The new agreement breaks a long-standing Arab consensus that the price of normal relations with Israel was independence for the Palestinians. But now Israel is cementing new public relationships with Arab states while the Palestinians still languish under occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and in what amounts to an open prison in Gaza.
Implications for India
Pakistan’s dilemma will increase further as its ties with its patron, Saudi Arabia, is fraying at the edges. Both Saudi Arabia and UAE have ignored Pakistan’s request to convene meetings of the OIC to discuss the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan has shifted closer to Iran and Turkey, as strategic rivalry between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey has led to geopolitical re-alignments. Saudi Arabia and UAE are far more concerned about Iran’s role in the region and have gravitated towards their ally US. This opportunity has been the window utilised by US to bring in its ally Israel into the equation, with the ultimate aim of putting more pressure on Iran. With India’s growing ties to the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and UAE, and ties with Iran and Turkey floundering over the Kashmir issue, the Agreement will buttress Delhi’s ties with the region.