16 September 2020   Leave a comment

There was a signing ceremony at the White House yesterday with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. As I indicated in my post on 11 September, the normalizing of relations is always a good thing and all involved should be congratulated for these small steps for peace. The fanfare at the ceremony, however, was disproportionate to the actual change the steps imply. Israel and the UAE have been secretly cooperating for many years. President Trump made the following assertion:

“And they want to see peace. You know, they’ve been fighting for a long time. They’re tired. They’re warring countries, but they’re tired. They’re tired of fighting. And so you’re going to be seeing further announcements.”

President Trump’s comment is curious because I am completely unaware of any armed conflict between Israel and the UAE or Bahrain. The Guardian assesses the significance of the agreements:

“Just whose blood might be involved was glossed over. The other signatories of the ‘accords’, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, had never been at war with Israel. They are Gulf monarchies from the high-end enclaves of the Arab world, who have exchanged intelligence and technology with Israel as wall as a mutual fear of Iran, for several years already. The ‘peace agreements’ involved three Middle Eastern governments putting an official seal on once furtive friendships, in a brash ceremony honed to benefit Trump, part of a broader diplomatic flurry that is part of his reelection campaign.

Most of the fighting in the Middle East has been more closely related to US moves since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In real terms, the normalization of relations among these states is roughly equivalent to a damp squib.

The UAE and Bahrain both insisted that Israel stop the process of annexing the West Bank. We shall wait to see how long this pause lasts. Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently under indictment and Israel is suffering from a significant spike in COVID-19 infections so the political pressures on him are particularly intense at this point in time. The UAE has also asked for the top-of-the-line US fighter jet, the F-35, and Israel is opposed to that step since it would make the UAE a more formidable power in the Persian Gulf. The Bahrain decision is interesting since the regime is closely tied to Saudi Arabia and it implies that the Saudis are also thinking about normalizing relations as well. Such a move is unlikely as long as King Salman is alive, but he is an ailing ruler and his son, the Crown Peace, appears to be more willing to make the move.

The US-Israeli strategy toward the Palestinians is becoming clearer. Essentially, the plan is to isolate completely the Palestinians from other Arab states and wait for the Palestinians to capitulate from exhaustion and lack of money. In the short run, the strategy might work. But Israel has yet to decide what to do with the Palestinians who may ultimately be forced to live in Israel.

Posted September 16, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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