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Israel-UAE deal: A victory for Arab reaction  

| Updated: September 01, 2020 23:10:20

Palestinians in Gaza City take part in a protest against the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalise relations 	—Reuters Palestinians in Gaza City take part in a protest against the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalise relations —Reuters

The title of the article is taken from a television interview  given by Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University  to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on August 15. Professor Khalidi sees this new development as geared to further strengthen the US-Gulf alliance against Iran and a victory for Arab reaction. He further pointed out the United Arab Emirates (UAE)  has never in its history been at war with Israel but has been actively involved in war against Yemen and Libya which are both Arab countries. Given that  Israel and  the UAE  have never been at war, the agreement reached between the two countries brokered by the US  can not be termed as  a 'peace treaty' as suggested by some White House officials and a section of the media.

On August 13, 2020, US President Donald Trump announced that the UAE is to 'normalise' relations with Israel and forge a new relationship. But the word 'normalise' is somewhat a misnomer in this context in view of the fact the UAE and Israel's relationship has been growing in many areas including security and intelligence sharing arrangements for quite some time. In fact, Israel has become a major supplier of the missile system to the UAE including the provision of training. Even an Israeli diplomatic office has been opened in Abu Dhabi in 2015. In reality, it is more an attempt to publicly 'formalising' an ongoing multifaceted relationship that has been going on for some time.

There is a  claim that the Emiratis extracted concessions from Israel in the form of halting plans to annex Palestinian land in the Israeli occupied land in the West Bank in return for formalising relations between the two countries. The claim  is rather hollow as reflected in  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's declaration that he would 'delay'  the annexation as part of the deal with the UAE but the plan remains on the table. What is missing in this claim is that the annexation would be illegal under the  international law and faces some domestic and international opposition making it already a difficult task for Netanyahu to execute.

No matter how the UAE might like to spin it, it has thrown the Palestinians under the bus. The sentiment is also echoed by Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian politician when she tweeted "May you never be sold out by your 'friend'. She further added "Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it has been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the beginning of the occupation".

As for the Palestinians the deal makes hardly any difference whether Israel calls off or postpones the annexation of the West Bank. About 2.8 million Palestinians, either way, will continue to live under Israeli military rule with ever growing Jewish colonial settlers now numbering close to 450,000 in an  apartheid system. In fact, the plight of the Palestinian people is very similar to that of  the Black South Africans during the apartheid era. This process will continue regardless of any deal or no deal. The UAE has in fact legitimised Israeli apartheid.

More fundamentally the Israel-UAE deal is hardly a surprise, it has been in the making for quite a while, it will not change anything that has not changed already. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, many Arab governments decided that their principal threats were internal, not external and  they feel the Arab-Israeli conflict is a political distraction. These countries are wary of democratisation of the Arab world and have common views with Israel on their adversaries. This deal  will only help the UAE to further cement its ties with Washington but unlikely to ensure peace and stability in the region.

The deal is indeed another betrayal of the Palestinians by one more Arab regime. It also makes Israel to feel vindicated that they can normalise relations with the Arab world without resolving Palestinian claims and taking tougher negotiation stance with the Palestinians. But Israel will be gravely mistaken to think that the deal will cause Palestinian resistance to diminish or disappear.

President Trump brokered the deal which he announced with great fanfare and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared it a "historic day". There is nothing historic about it, it is just another case of Arab betrayal of Palestinian right of self-determination by an absolute Arab monarchist regime. This is not the first case of such an Arab  betrayal nor it will be the last. The agreement is clearly seen as a serious setback for the Palestinian cause but the Palestinian resistance will continue regardless of such setbacks.

Presidents Trump's time in office has been marked by accelerated hostile acts against the Palestinians relative to previous US administrations  by enabling Israel to further tighten its grip on the Palestinians. He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, initiated a peace plan without any Palestinian participation, and recognised the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. President Trump also had originally given his consent to Netanyahu's  planned annexation of the West Bank but later pulled back. The Democratic  Party Presidential candidate Joe Biden was also 'gratified' to see the  deal and even claimed credits for the deal. 

The deal has provided another Arab seal of approval for Israel to maintain its status quo of occupation of Palestinian land, abuse and arbitrary killing of Palestinians and apartheid laws.  In fact, many other Arab countries are waiting in the queue to be the next and by doing so these Arab countries are turning their back on their own history, their kin and  the occupation of Palestine by colonial settlers. In fact, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen hinted to this in a radio interview saying that more Gulf  countries would sign up deals with Israel. Also,  Washington and Tel Aviv hope that the agreement will also encourage other Arab states in the Gulf to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, with Bahrain and Oman the most likely to follow the Emirate's lead.

The deal has been dubbed as the 'Abraham Accord', which I presume alludes to the common Arab-Jewish Semitic heritage to give it a positive spin. But the new Israel-UAE partnership with all  spin doctoring  will not fool any one, let alone the Arab people. Balad, the Arab political party in Israel which knows better than any one else what it is like to live in the apartheid state as an Arab, said, "the UAE has officially joined Israel against Palestine, and placed itself in the camp of the enemies of the Palestinian people". A Hamas spokes person said, "This agreement serves the Zionist narrative. This agreement encourages the occupation (by Israel) to continue, its denial of the rights of our Palestinian people, or even to continue  its crimes against our people". The  Ramallah  based  Palestinian leadership   denounced the deal describing it as a 'stab in the back' and withdrew its ambassador from Abu Dhabi.

However, the support for the deal has come from the expected sources like the United Kingdom-- the very country instrumental in creating the Settler Colonial State of Israel in Palestine. Its Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded the agreement describing it as a 'hugely good news'. The agreement has also been welcomed by other usual European countries like France,  Germany and others. Support for the deal also has come from usual Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman and the like. Qatar, Iran and Turkey all have criticised the deal. Saudi Arabia  has remained silent indicating a tacit support for the deal. Civil society organisations in the region remain steadfast in their opposition to normalising relations with Israel.

The agreement is primarily bound up with the Trump administration's attempt to put maximum pressure and sanctions on Iran, and is tantamount  to creating a state of war. Israel and the UAE  share a similar outlook  regarding perceived threats in the region, that is Iran and that coincides  with  Trump's hostile obsession with Iran. While the agreement is the culmination of years of backroom talks on security, intelligence sharing and trade but the timing meets the need of all the three parties. The agreement is geared  to shore up Trump's slumping electoral support against Joe Biden and improving Netanyahu's battered image in Israel. As for the UAE, the agreement provides a closer relation with the US enabling  it to  purchase of advanced defence equipment and further bolstering an anti-Iranian alliance which now formally includes Israel as well. 



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