DC Edit | Green shoots of peace in Israel-UAE accord
A landmark accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, brokered by Washington, comes on the back of an Israeli assurance that it would suspend annexing more areas of the occupied West Bank.
Israel and UAE are to soon establish full-scale diplomatic relations but the Palestinians, who have been seeking a homeland in an elusive two-State solution to a long running feud, are miffed as there is very little in it for their greater cause.
Iran, predictably enough, is upset at what clearly is the formalisation of the building of an axis of powers in the region against a Muslim country in which there is place even for the Jewish nation.
The primary gainer in the deal would be Israel, which gives up only further annexation — viewed as unnecessary by a majority of its people — as it gets recognition in the contentious Middle East cauldron where religion was a clear divide in which Israel was the traditional outcast even amid Sunni-Shia tensions.
The other gainer from a historic deal that would have been unthinkable when Yasser Arafat’s Palestine was facing its existential crisis is the US President Donald Trump who scores a rare foreign policy success after fruitlessly cavorting with North Korea and then grappling with China on a trade deal whose chances were totally undermined by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Seen as an election gift served up by his son-in-law and plenipotentiary Jared Kushner, the world will be hoping that a sincerity of purpose may have dawned at last for a region of many conflicts to experience real peace.
The deal is, however, founded on assurances from a beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who seems to be trading his territorial ambitions at least temporarily for friendship.
The deal may, however, bolster his survival in a shaky coalition in the face of severe opposition in which his own people have been referring to him sardonically as “Crime Minister” in demonstrations every day outside his home.
Iran and Turkey’s diatribe that all Muslims have been betrayed in the deal may be a tad exaggerated because Middle East countries have been reshaping their approach to Israel for years.
Iran and many of its proxies in the region, including Hezbollah and Hamas, besides Syria and Yemen are the losers now. The Palestinian cause has lain on the backburner even as petroleum-rich countries have been dealing secretly with Israel for its cybertech, agricultural and health care expertise.
It is moot whether Israel abandoning its “land for peace” policy would facilitate a grand entente in which the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, would return to the negotiating table.
There has been no clear road map for this in recent times and the fear is the optics that looks so good in a US election year may fade in months.
It would be in the interest of durable peace in the Middle East were UAE’s recognition of Israel to lead to other Arab states following suit though a more just two-State solution seems as far away as ever. What has happened is at best the sighting of green shoots of peace.