Mid West

The political landscape behind Israel's peace deals with UAE, Bahrain

A majority of Arab states have not had any ties with Israel.

Credit : Karolina Grabowska

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain on Tuesday signed agreements with Israel to normalize their relations fully. The USA has mediated the deals. US President Donald Trump called the agreements as, the "dawn of a new Middle East".

According to the BBC, the two Gulf states are two more Arab countries giving recognition to Israel since 1948, the year of its founding. Thus, four Arab nations have recognised Israel as a state. The Palestinians requested other countries not to extend an official status to Israel pending a resolution to their conflict with Israel.

A majority of Arab states have not had any ties with Israel. They first want the country to settle its dispute with Palestine. The reasons for the latest deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain are given below.

The Emiratis have emerged as business centres and tourist attractions, besides being a military might. Apparently, the US promised sale of advanced weapons to the UAE. Among the weapons are the EA-18G Growler electronic fighter aircraft and the F-35 stealth fighter. The UAE has already deployed its armed forces in Yemen and Libya. However, Iran is its potential enemy.

The US, Israel and the UAE, Bahrain suspect the Iranians. Iran always claimed Bahrain as its territory till 1969. Bahrain is ruled by the Sunnis and see its Shia majority as having sympathy for Iran. The two Gulf states had almost open ties with Israel. They can now trade openly. Israel’s hi-tech sectors beckon them.

Israelis, though temporarily staying at home, love travelling and holidaying. The malls, beaches and deserts in the Gulf would attract them.

Israel’s "Iron Wall" policy towards the Arab states is meant to accept the latter of its existence. Israelis do not want to be isolated in West Asia. Their handshakes with Jordan and Egypt are not really warm. The new peace pacts are a big achievement for Jerusalem from frequent confrontations with its Arab neighbours and struggle to hold the occupied territories. Through these deals, the Semitic nation would strengthen its front against Iran. For Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran is Israel's enemy number one.

The US president stands to benefit at many levels with these deals. His policy of putting "maximum pressure" on Iran seems to be succeeding. In the election year, Trump can declare himself as the world's best dealmaker. This will also please American Christian Evangelical voters who favour Israel, particularly the Netanyahu government. The Arabs open dealing with Israel would smoothen the "friends of America" alliance against Iran.

In fact, the "Deal of the Century" as called by Trump is a non-starter. The Israel-UAE agreement known as "Abraham Accords" shifts the balance of power in West Asia. The Trump administration is projecting this as a big foreign policy success.

The Palestinians have called the Abraham Accords as a betrayal. This ends the consensus among the Arabs that only an independent Palestine can be brokered for peace with Israel. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and UAE de facto head said the deal was sealed after Israel agreed to halt annexation of regions in the West Bank.

Bahrain’s partnership in the agreement will make the Palestinians more nervous.

Saudi Arabia’s connivance is writ large in the deal. In fact, the Saudis are the authors of the peace plan in return for Palestinian independence. King Salman may not immediately recognise Israel. However, his successor Mohammed bin Salman would be less reluctant.

Iran has flayed the deal. The agreement would pressurise them. US sanctions have already put them in economic distress. The strategic deal adds to their worries. The UAE's air bases are not far off on the other side of the Gulf. This assumes significance in the backdrop of planned airstrikes against nuclear Iran. The deal signatories and the USA have many options while Iran finds itself cornered.