The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel made a deal earlier this week to forestall Tel Aviv’s controversial plans to annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank and start a new era of normalization.
Although the deal was supported by the West and regional countries namely, Egypt, Oman and Bahrain, the agreement sparked uproar in Palestine and on Arab streets.
The Emirates became the third Arab country to recognize Israel after Jordan and Egypt, in a move touted as doing the Palestinians a favor.
Palestinian groups, however, denounced the agreement, saying it does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause and ignores the rights of Palestinians.
Before it was officially announced, Palestinians criticized the UAE for having unofficial ties with Israel, saying Abu Dhabi was normalizing relations with Tel Aviv, including in a report by Israeli media in June that said Abu Dhabi sent 100,000 coronavirus test kits to Tel Aviv earlier this year.
In October 2018, UAE authorities gave permission to Israeli athletes to participate in the International Judo Federation Grand Slam tournament in Abu Dhabi.
And last August, the UAE reached a deal worth almost $3 billion with Israel to supply advanced intelligence capabilities to the Gulf state, including two spy planes, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Questions surfaced following the deal about the motive of the UAE’s approach to make an official peace agreement with Israel although the nations do not share borders. And expected backlash from the Palestinian and Arab communities.
Professor Sami al-Arian, Director of the Isranbul-based Center for Islamic and Global Affairs of Turkey, told Anadolu Agency that since Arab uprisings in 2011, the UAE sought an “expansive” role in the region and took Israel as an ally to “roll back” movements for democratization in the Arab World.
The potential democratization wave that was expected to spread to Arab states, posed a direct threat to existing regimes which depend on “despotism, repression and a small elite of monarchs and military people to rule over the Arab world,” said al-Arian.
Through democratization, people could have reached their aspiration for freedom and have regimes that genuinely could represent them, he said.
“If democracy were to spread across the Arab world, the UAE rulers thought that this would be a direct threat to the end on their rules,” he said. “They found in Israel and other corners strategic alliances.”
“Israel also fears the spread of the Arab democratic movement as a threat since the majority of the people in the Arab world reject the existence of the Zionist state,” he said.
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has failed to gain recognition as a legitimate state from most Arab countries and have no official ties.
“Israel has not been accepted by the people of the region as a legitimate state, with its settlement and racist movement in Palestine in order to take over Palestine and displace its people, the Palestinians, across the region,” he said.
Al-Arian said the so-called “historic” is a step forward in Israel’s quest for recognition.
“They call it ‘historic’ because they were able to penetrate deep into the Arab world and get recognition and alliance from one of the wealthiest of nations that they don’t even have borders with,” he said. “And they found that to be an opportunity for them to be legitimized and also to take over some of the wealth of that nation.”
Asked whether the UAE was in the same position as Jordan that inked a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 to solve water and border disputes as well as Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1979 following the 1973 War, al-Arian said: “the UAE had no such obligation indeed.”
“They think Israel has the keys to the White House, especially with this administration, with the Trump administration, they think they can get what they want from them in terms of protection and support,” said al-Arian.
According to the Palestinian academic, another topic that brought the UAE and Israel together is Iran, which both see as a threat in the region.
The Emiratis, instead of making a settlement with Tehran, he said, thought to “ally themselves with Israel and try to crush Iran, which is not going to happen because simply Israel does not do their bidding.”
“Iran is being used as a club to hit the heads of these Arab regimes, so that they can turn to Israel and the US,” according to al-Arian.
According to the political expert, although the UAE and other Gulf states enjoy protection from the US, they seek additional protection guarantees as “they think that the US can turn against them, or can change regimes since the US has only permanent interests, not necessarily permanent friends.”
Al-Arian referred to the stance of the US when it abandoned Egypt’s late President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 amid a popular uprising that ousted him from a 30-year rule.
“That was a bad sign that the United States can actually change horses, as long as its interests are being secured and therefore they wanted a more solid, commitment, and they think by aligning themselves with the Zionist state, that they can get that kind of commitment from the US,” he said.
“It’s an unfortunate geopolitical miscalculation,” al-Arian stressed saying “because at the end of the day, Israel will never be the partner that they seek. Israel at the end seeks to fragment the area to plunder its resources, and to be the hegemon across the region, and they’re not going to have any partners to achieve that goal. In addition to trying to depopulate Palestine and take over its land as a settler colonial state.”
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