The UAE’s recent peace deal with Israel has drawn massive attention across the Arab world. The deal paves the way for establishing official diplomatic ties between the two countries, making the UAE the first GCC state to take such a step following only two Arab states Egypt and Jordan that previously signed agreements with Israel. The decision came under fire from the Palestinians and other supporters of the Palestinian cause who called it a betrayal to Arab nationalism, while disregarding the details of the deal and the huge positive impact it would have on the future on the region.
Countries such as Bahrain, Oman and Egypt welcomed the UAE’s announcement considering it a step in the right direction. The deal sets the cornerstone for talks between the Israelis and the UAE, and is considered a start of a new chapter for diplomatic ties in the region, following seven decades of a political stalemate between Israel and the Arabian Gulf countries.
With civil war and chaos in Libya, Syria and Yemen; as well as a catastrophic economic and political situation in Lebanon and Iraq, this is a region which is crying out for peace, stability and justice. The big question is whether closer ties with Israel bring us closer to this goal.
Why sign a deal with Israel?
Although Israel is known to be an enemy of the Palestinians and a few other Arab countries historically, it is a fact that Israel has never been a direct threat to any of the Gulf countries since its establishment. History takes its turns and countries shift their alliances and interests. Perhaps the UAE views Israel as a potential ally in a region that is troubled by war and major threats by unfortunate neighbours such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Gulf is surrounded by threats from Hezbollah, Iran and other extremist groups, hence a strategic alliance with Israel might be a step in the right direction.
The UAE and any sovereign nation has the right to put its interests forward and above all. Today, there is an opportunity for economic, strategic and security ties with Israel and that could serve Israel, the Emirates and others in the region. Arabs spearheaded by the UAE will be a part of the future of the Palestinian people and will finally have an official say in what the future of Palestine can look like, considering that the Emirates has called on an end to Israeli settlements.
Negotiations are an ongoing process and once the deal is in effect, we will perhaps see fruitful outcomes for Palestine and the region. Considering the current world order, some form of ties are expected to be established to bring an end to the Palestinian crisis and bring peace to the region, if we decide to be isolated from the problem and never have direct talks then there will be no solution on the long run.
Israeli right-wingers have always claimed that the Arabs don’t want peace, and simply desire to “throw the Jews into the sea”. The Emirati initiative is a strong response to this claim, showing that under the right conditions, the Arab world is ready for peace.
Over seventy years of severed ties and refusing to talk haven’t brought us closer to peace. It is thus time to try a new approach.
However, Israel must recognize that it can’t take GCC states for granted: If it returns to previous behaviour of killing Palestinians and stealing their lands, then there can be little hope of warm ties with Arab states.
This is also an important signal to Iran: The Arab world and the West, along with Israel, jointly consider Tehran to be the foremost threat to regional stability. Whatever people across the Arab world may think of Israel, over the past couple of decades it isn’t Israel which has sought to dominate at least four Arab states – Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria; resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens. The economic catastrophe and recent disasters in Lebanon are largely the fault of Hezbollah trying to dominate the state on behalf of Iran. In Iraq as well, Iran-backed militias have been stepping up assassinations of all those who criticize them.
Also in Bahrain, it is Iran which has bankrolled terrorism and attempts to destroy the established order. While a broad consensus of Bahrainis regard Iran as an enemy and a menace, there is a growing readiness to consider a fresh approach towards Israel; hence the steady occurrence of low-level two-way contacts over the past couple of years.
While many of the old generation of Arabs view Israel as the enemy, due to its long record of abuse of the Palestinians and wars with Arab countries. There are many young people in the Arabian Gulf who look at the future, a future that can bring peace and create better opportunities in a region that has always been troubled with destruction.
We stand with the Emirates in its decisions to put the interests of the region forward and we believe in the wisdom behind this step. The United Arab Emirates is a devoted supporter and ally of our nation. It is a country that stood beside us at our times of trouble, and so we shall support it as friends and allies.
We hope that the UAE-Israel deal results in fruitful outcomes for the Gulf, Palestine, Israel and the Middle East. This is a region which is crying out for peace – but only on the basis of justice and rights for all citizens. Let’s hope that this is a step towards a more stable, just and prosperous region.