Arab countries’ dilemma after the agreement with Israel | Free press


Abu Dhabi (AP) – On a sunny day in September, then US President Donald Trump stepped onto the balcony of the White House and announced nothing less than the “beginning of a new Middle East.”

It meant the so-called Abrahamic Agreements concluded by Washington between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Israel to normalize their relations. According to Trump, they should become “the basis for comprehensive peace throughout the region.” Sudan and Morocco soon followed with similar agreements.

Eight months later – and after deadly attacks and clashes in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – there doesn’t seem to be much of that hope left. The renewed escalation of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians caused waves in the Arab world, especially across the borders to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. According to the UN, a total of about 3.2 million Palestinian refugees live there.

The conflict has placed the Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan in a new diplomatic dilemma. On the one hand, they cannot jeopardize the new dialogue with Israel by criticizing them too harshly. At the same time, they cannot simply give up their long-term support for the Palestinians. Residents of the Emirates and Bahraini quickly showed solidarity with their Arab sisters and brothers in social networks, for example in East Jerusalem, where Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah’s Arab neighborhood are threatened with expulsion.

The Emirates and Bahrain, in particular, are now “quite weak,” said Colin Clarke of the privately-owned Soufan Group, which analyzes security situations around the world. “You agreed to the deal, but you literally have no influence whatsoever on the Israelis. At the same time, their criticism of Israel for the agreement is not very credible. “The big-show deals announced were” essentially PR “anyway, said Clarke of the German news agency.

The rhetoric, accordingly, seemed cautious in the fighting between Israel and militant Hamas. Criticism of Israel after clashes in front of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was “taken for granted,” said Zaha Hassan of the New York Times Carnegie think tank – it happened in Ramadan month in one of the holiest places for Muslims. The statement by Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Sajid, for example, calling for a ceasefire, the start of political dialogue and “extreme restraint” days later, just days later, was therefore moderate.

The Abraham Accords – named after the forefathers of Jews, Muslims and Christians – helped little because the Palestinian issue was deliberately pushed aside. The states had different goals: Bahrain and the Emirates wanted to get closer to Israel because of their common nemesis Iran. They see the growing influence of Tehran (as well as that of Turkey) in parts of the Arab and Muslim world as a threat, similar to Saudi Arabia. Israel and the Emirates had worked covertly on security issues for years.

Morocco, in turn, wanted the US to recognize its claim to Western Sahara – in exchange for poor recognition of Israel. Rabat opened a liaison office in Israel, but no embassy is planned. Sudan, on the other hand, was under pressure and agreed to the Israel agreement, especially to finally escape US sanctions. All concerned hope for economic benefits, whether through investment, trade or partnerships in education and science. Even before that, thousands of tourists from Tel Aviv, for example, were drawn to Dubai or Marrakech.

After Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994), Israel has now officially recognized six Arab states. Further agreements do not seem in sight for the time being. The four new countries have strengthened Israel in the region, breaking open the traditional lines of Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Your argument that the new agreements will give you more influence over Israel has not materialized. The most recent ceasefire was instrumental in mediating Egypt, which had already acted as mediator in 2014.

At the same time, the Arab countries are coming closer together again. The 22-nation Arab League recently called on the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate Israel for “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” It’s about justice that “has been missing for decades”.