International Relations

The Big Falafel:

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Israel-UAE-Bahrain Pact

A Peace Deal has finally been struck but peace takes more than just signatures and handshakes. The dawn of a new Middle East started with a signing ceremony for the Middle East Agreement normalising relations between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. According to the deal, the Arab countries will now formally recognize Israel. In return, Israel would halt its plans to occupy parts of the West Bank. Well, not exactly. What they promise in this treaty is holding off on declaring full sovereignty over the annexed land. That is to say, make an international statement of “it’s ours”.

The Real Winners.

Netanyahu-

He diverts attention from his miserable handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He manages to make “peace” with Arabs who are not Palestinians.

He buttresses his reputation among Israeli voters as a statesman on the world stage (I mean of course we all know Netanyahu seems to be gearing up for Israel’s fourth national re-election in less than two years).

Bin Zayed-

He realizes that the U.A.E. is acutely ostracized by the Democrats and so realizes that he needs to make his country look helpful and constructive (To Joe Biden, just in case).

We know that the U.S. has vowed for a very long time to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, but the U.A.E., in particular, might have just arranged for itself a similar promise.

Bin Salman-

Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, without whom Bahrain in particular, would not dare make such a bold and public move. Again, same reason: he has to prove to Democrats that he is a constructive and sensible leader and not merely a butcher of nonconformists.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump, because he can now conveniently tell his followers, particularly his more naive followers, that he has brought “peace” to the Middle East (because how could we forget, Trump, seeking re-election in the November 3rd’s presidential election against his Democratic Party rival, Joe Biden, is hoping that the two major diplomatic deals would help him in the polls).

India

When two of your friends who hate each other become good friends, it is not them but you who are the happiest. So to say the least, India does benefit from this deal.

India should use this unexpected opportunity to give itself a bigger role in a region which is its strategic backyard. The first step should be to ramp up defense and security relations with the UAE.

India should leverage its economy for a bigger opening in this region. India can use its good offices to ensure that any future deal on a regional security context gives adequate space to Iran, which may be weak but not so weak that it cannot be a hugely disruptive power if it so chooses.

The Israelis

Because now they can travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The Defeated.

The Palestinians-

They describe it as a “stab in the back” for the United Arab Emirates to having been flipped on the narrative by moving towards normalization with no development on the conflict.

In a word, the Palestinians feel betrayed. The 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative called for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Arab states normalised relations with Israel. But now, if other Arab allies get tired of supporting the Palestinian cause, and opt to forge relations with Israel based upon their interests, as the Emiratis have done, we can safely say that Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss any opportunity.

May you never be sold out by your ‘friends’.” Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian politician, tweeted in reaction to the agreement.

And now the Palestinian Authority quit its rotating chairmanship of Arab League meetings on 22nd September, with Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki saying his government no longer wanted the position.

The Iranians-

Until now, the growing Israeli-Emirati relationship has been conducted informally and secretly. And it was largely focused on sharing intelligence to counter their mutual adversary, Iran.

I was taught that a peace deal is usually signed between the war parties. These three countries were never at war, they are thousands of miles apart and this signing is nothing but a message to Iran that “War Loving” nations are coming for you.

It is more than rhetoric. The Abraham Accord put them under further strain.

President Trump’s sanctions are already causing real economic pain. Now they have a strategic headache too.

Will signing a peace deal bring peace?

The annexation has already happened, Israeli settlements have been growing fast year after year, Palestinians have been ejected from their lands by all kinds of measures. Israel has full military control of the annexed area, full control of its population, water, roads, travel, borders etc. And nowhere in this treaty do they promise to stop or slow any of that down. All they promise is not to declare it internationally – for now.

So if you arrange a “peace agreement” without any regard to the situation in the occupied West Bank, then I’m afraid you have neither an agreement, nor a deal, nor any chance of peace! Peace in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza depends absolutely on Israel and the Palestinians reaching an accord, and deals between Israel and the UAE, etc, are and will remain irrelevant.

-Eepsa Bansal

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