Two Arab countries, the UAE and Bahrain, have formally signed normalization of relations deals with Israel under US mediation. At a formal at the White House on Tuesday, September 15 they signed a joint declaration of peace, called the “Abraham Accords” despite objections raised by the Palestinians protesting outside the venue. Palestinians were also on the streets in different cities in the occupied territories, calling the deal a betrayal of their cause.
Given the timing of the announcement – merely two months before the crucial US presidential election – speculation was rife that the aim was to boost Donald Trump’s electoral prospects. Given the UAE’s and Bahrain’s close ties with the US, it was not difficult for them to make their clandestine relations with Israel formal. The rivalry with Iran may also have played an important role in shaping the deal, along with the other regional calculations of UAE’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan.
The announcement of normalization of the relations with Israel has nothing to do with peace in the region as Trump and others have been claiming. The UAE and Bahrain have never fought any war with Israel and they, along with several other Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and Oman, have already had clandestine relations with Israel for quite some time now.
In any case, real peace in the region is not possible until the occupation of Palestine ends.
A weapons deal
The US has committed to maintain the “qualitative military edge” of Israel in the region and gives USD 3.8 billion worth of military aid to the Zionist entity every year. It also considers possible threats to Israel before selling weapons to any country in the region. The deal would open the possibilities of more weapons sales to Gulf countries, especially the UAE and Bahrain, as Israeli objections to such sales are expected to be reduced.
The US can now hope to add to its billions of dollars in weapons trade in the Gulf region. Several US officials have made promises of the sale of advanced weaponry after the deal to the UAE. In May, the US state department approved a sale of more than 4,500 mine resistant ambush protected vehicles for a total amount of USD 556 million. US officials have already expressed their wish to sell F-35 stealth warplanes, weaponized drones and other advanced military equipment to the UAE, which considers them crucial for its regional ambitions in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere. The UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash has already said that his country has been hoping to buy F-35 jets from the US for a long time.
Israel had earlier expressed its apprehensions about the UAE getting such advanced weapons. Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, had assured Israel that America will make sure that the sale to the Gulf does not affect Israel’s military advantages.
The treaty will thus be a great boost to arms sales in the region and could even lead to an arms race as rivals of these countries are forced to also upgrade their militaries. This would, no doubt, be a great opportunity for the US and its arms manufacturers. By ignoring its own Congress resolutions about possible misuse of US weapons by the Gulf countries for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Trump administration has made its priorities clear. It does not care about human rights and war as long as it is making money out of it.
No peace without Palestine statehood
Before the UAE and Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan had signed similar agreements with Israel. Unlike the recent signatories, Egypt and Jordan were frontline states who had fought wars against Israel. However, even theese treaties did not bring peace in the region. It is clear that the same fate awaits the so-called Abraham Accords.
While normalization brings benefits to the ruling classes of these Arab countries, it also means they face the increased mistrust of their people. Another key question is the fate of the Arab Peace Initiative which has been endorsed by Arab countries several times since 2002. This initiative states that Arab countries shall not normalize ties with Israel until the Palestinians get justice.
It is also significant to note that Bahrain and the UAE, “did not secure a single lasting concession for Palestinians in its agreement with Israel — not even to slightly ease the 13-year blockade of Gaza, which has turned the tiny coastal enclave into an open-air prison,” as Noura Erekat notes in NBC news.
Egypt had got back its Sinai Peninsula after its deal with Israel in 1979. Jordan’s deal is believed to have been one of the factors that contributed to the Oslo accords in 1994.
The only parties which can claim diplomatic victory are the US and Israel. The only so-called concession, loudly tom-tomed by Trump and Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan, is the Israeli announcement to halt the annexation of 30% of the occupied West Bank. It is no concession at all for two reasons. First, Israel has de-facto control over the said territories and the announcement of formal annexation was halted much before their deal was announced. Second, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has emphasized that the proposal is not off the table and it can happen any day in the near future.
Peace is not the real objective of the Abraham accords – this is clear for everyone to see. The real motive behind the deal is to consolidate the US alliance in the face of growing challenges to its hegemony in the region.