Although the Middle East peace deal was historic, some experts argue ties between the UAE and Israel were already improving
President Trump has brokered a historic deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalizing relations between the two countries and laying a foundation for peace in the Middle East. The agreement between the two countries promises to establish normal relations. Under the agreement, the UAE and Israel will cooperate in fields including education, health care, energy, trade and security. The countries will exchange ambassadors, establish embassies and open direct flights, allowing pilgrims from throughout the Muslim world to visit holy sites in Israel.
Kirsten Fontenrose, a former senior official in the Trump national security council, said that Bahrain would not have agreed to normalisation without the approval of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, but added that Saudi Arabia itself was unlikely to follow the same path while Bin Salman’s father was still on the throne. The new agreement is the most significant step toward peace in the Middle East in two and a half decades and that those similar past efforts have had major impacts. The UAE is the third Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, after Egypt in 1978 and Jordan in 1994.
Although the UAE is the first major Arab state to recognize Israel since the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty was signed on October 26, 1994, foreign policy experts have expressed skepticism with regards to the Abraham Accord ushering in peace in the region. They claim that ties between the two nations had been improving even before the deal was struck.
Dov Vaxman, Director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, wrote in The Conversation that since the United Arab Emirates and Israel have never been at war, the new agreement between them is not really a peace treaty. The agreement will officially begin upgrading relations that have been quietly improving for some time, a process that will probably unfold slowly and tentatively. Until now, the growing Israeli-Emirati relationship has been conducted informally and secretly. It was largely focused on sharing intelligence to counter their mutual enemy, Iran. The new deal will bolster this de facto alliance against Iran, he wrote.
The Council of Foreign Relations observes that Israel and the UAE have been inching toward normalization in recent years. In 2015, Israel opened a diplomatic office in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi tied to the International Renewable Energy Agency; senior Israeli officials have visited Abu Dhabi; Israeli athletes have participated in regional competitions in the UAE; and Israel is set to participate in Dubai’s World Expo 2020, which is now scheduled to open in October 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Palestinian leadership has widely criticized the deal. Palestinian officials maintain that nobody consulted with them before, reported The New York Times. Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom, was quoted saying that the agreement is damaging to the cause of peace because it takes away one of the key incentives for Israel to end its occupation — normalization with the Arab world. Vaxman stated it’s far from clear that the Israeli-Emirati agreement will help the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.