The Israel-UAE accord announced by President Trump August 13 has the potential of normalizing diplomatic ties between Israel and a third Arab state. Is that potentially a significant step forward in defusing the Arab-Israeli dispute? Read ahead.
The agreement, fashioned by the two Middle Eastern countries and encouraged by Washington, establishes formal relations between a third Arab country and Israel. The UAE would be the first Arab republic (out of a total of 23) to have established formal ties with Israel since the 1990s. The others are Egypt and Jordan.
Key ingredients of the unprecedented breakthrough
—Washington played a large role in an effort over the past several months to set the stage for the UAE and Israel to establish formal diplomatic ties.
—Earlier this year, a U.S.-Israeli agreement was announced in which the United States had endorsed a Tel Aviv plan to occupy large portions of the West Bank permanently. All the while, however, talks between Israel and the UAE enhanced informal ties between those two countries, including new Israeli business deals in the emirates.
—A big stumbling block in closer Israeli-UAE ties was Israel’s insistence on full implementation of its envisioned occupation of large strategic areas of the West Bank. A major breakthrough, however, occurred when Israel agreed to no longer insist, for now at least, on fully implementing its plan to occupy large swathes of the West Bank. That made it possible to secure agreement with the United Arab Emirates for expanded trade and normal relations.
—According to Britain’s Financial Times: “Senior Emirati officials warned that claiming sovereignty over Palestinian land would upend any Israeli hopes of improving relations with Arab countries and spark violence. But with each UAE warning,” according to the Financial Times, “came a carrot: opening lines of communication between Israel and the UAE would yield better results for all of us.”
Israel then agreed to the formal diplomatic ties with the UAE, while stressing that it wouldn’t impede its overall West Bank goals. A Washington Post front-page headline August 15 summed it all up: “Before Israel-UAE Accord, a Long and Quiet Courtship.” The two countries, according to Post correspondent Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem, had been in touch for a number of years “in surreptitiously building diplomatic, security, and business ties that culminated in the announcement of full diplomatic relations.”
Now, the question looms: are there any other prospects for similar, undisclosed Mideast accords to duplicate the UAE-Israel arrangement? According to correspondent Hendrix, two other Gulf states which have previously signaled an openness to Israel welcomed the July 13 agreement. They are Bahrain and Qatar, neighboring Arab sheikdoms.
Israel in Dubai Expo next year?
One indication of the now-confirmed Israel-UAE breakthrough was that Israel was invited to build a pavilion and participate in Dubai’s Expo 2020 originally scheduled to open this summer. That international trade fair has now been postponed a year due to the coronavirus crisis. The fair is now scheduled to begin in October 2021.
Tel Aviv architect David Knafo has designed a seven-gated open-air pavilion for the fair and has been working with an Emirati construction firm to build it. In a statement to Post correspondent Hendrix. Mr. Knafo said:
“It’s going to have a double meaning now… it’s going to mean that we are accepted.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More