By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (retd)*
The Israel-UAE peace deal for normalizing relations has taken many by surprise; being the first between Israel and an Arab nation in 25 years. Israel has agreed to ‘suspend’ operations in West Bank to facilitate improved relations with UAE plus other Arab and Muslim nations.
The deal was reportedly reached in phone calls by leaders of both nations with the US President Donald Trump on August 13 while the inking of the formal deal is to follow. To what extent this will affect the US presidential election is difficult to say but the Trump administration is working with the other Gulf States to follow the UAE’s example.
Israeli settlers in West Bank are not too happy with the deal. Naftali Bennet, former Minister of Economy and Religious Services, praised the peace deal saying, relations between Israel and UAE are no longer a hostage of Palestinian recalcitrance. But he slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for suspending the extension of sovereignty over the West Bank. At the same time, Netanyahu has also said, “I will never give up on our right to our land,” which may be more of a political statement.
Implications of peace deal
The peace deal will benefit both Israel and UAE immensely aside from enlarging the stature of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi. Netanyahu described the deal as full formal peace with one of the strongest countries in the world, adding that this usher a new era of peace between Israel and the Arab world. Most significantly, Netanyahu tweeted, “I thank Egyptian President al-Sisi, and the governments of Oman and Bahrain, for their support of the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is expanding the circle of peace and will be good for the entire region,” Netanyahu tweeted.
Netanyahu’s above statement indicates the Gulf States of Bahrain and Oman are already inclined to peace with Israel and others may follow the suit in due course with the possible exception of hardcore Islamist Qatar. Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 and have diplomatic relations. Both Israel and UAE can now open embassies in each other countries, engage in trade and investments, and open up travel and tourism. UAE can invest in Israel, cooperate in the fight against coronavirus, including in developing a vaccine, and tourists from UAE can visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Also important will be cooperation in the areas of energy, water, defense, and innovations.
Pakistan’s games in the region
The Israel-UAE deal has apparently jolted Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who dreams of reviving the Ottoman Empire – announcing on August 14 that Turkey was mulling suspending diplomatic ties with the UAE over its agreement with Israel. He had given a similar threat in December 2017 when the US had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Very cleverly Erdogan has normalized relations with Russia in 2017. Yet Turkey could well be the next nuclear Muslim country with support from Pakistan-China.
More Gulf States inking peace with Israel will upset Chinese plans to upstage Saudi Arabia’s position in the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and replace it with Turkey, using Pakistan as the handle. Pakistan dumped Saudi Arabia over latter’s refusal to chair an OIC meet over Kashmir and is snuggling closer to Iran on the behest of China, without realizing the strategic consequences. Notwithstanding Beijing’s expanding influence in Iran, Pakistani state-sponsored proxies have been undertaking periodic trans-border terrorist attacks in Iran. Pakistan may even pass on nuclear technology to Iran but Iran-Pakistan relations can never be same as Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations simply because Pakistan prides itself as the nuclear leader of the Sunni-Muslim world while Iran considers itself the leader of the Shia-Muslim world.
President Trump has talked about “many more countries” in the region normalizing ties with Israel, and “some very exciting things including ultimately with the Palestinians.” However, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has told Iran’s state news agency IRNA, “The shameful measure of Abu Dhabi to reach an agreement with the fake Zionist regime (Israel) is a dangerous move and the UAE and other states that backed it will be responsible for its consequences”.
West Asia has been wracked with violence for decades and most Gulf States are looking for peace and prosperity. Those who are not for peace with Israel may still cause the split in OIC, with China drawing them in the fold to pursue President Xi Jinping’s dream of ‘world conquest.’ This will also cause fissures in the Muslim world per se – Turkey with Qatar and Iran aligned with China, even if they don’t see eye to eye, and Pakistan as the vassal state of China, will invariably become the battleground for the next world war.
*About the author: The author is an Indian Army veteran. The views expressed are personal
Source: This article was published by South Asia Monitor