Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement to begin normalizing relations although clandestine relations – including intelligence sharing and indirect flights – between the two Middle East states have been going on for decades.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s (MBZ) desires to buy fighter jets from the United States in 1990, but had feared Israeli opposition to the sale, led to the formation of the think-tank and government-backed Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in 1994 for academic research which later “became a conduit for contacts with Israel”. Unofficial and off the record meetings happened thru the think-tank and as soon as a sense of trust was established, Israel did not object for the US fighter jets to be sold to the Emirati.
Fast forward to now and the official disclosure of Israel and the UAE’s formal relations, known as Abraham Accord, brokered by the United States has followed through years of backroom campaigning and under the table talk. The UAE has become the third Arab country to recognize Israel, after Egypt and Jordan which shares borders with the Jewish State.
In the coming weeks, UAE and Israel will meet to sign bilateral agreements on security, investment, culture, tourism, the establishment of embassies, telecoms, healthcare, and other areas of “mutual benefit”. Israel also agreed to suspend efforts to declare sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, which some critics call a spin for the agreement “resulting for Israeli to stop the annexation of Palestinian lands” but is a “paid lip service of Arab leaders to the Palestinian people”.
Ties between Israel and Gulf Arab states have warmed in recent years, in large part due to a common distrust of Iran. They are wary of the Iran nuclear deal which they describe as a “foolish mistake” that could lead to the escalation of tensions in the region. The West expected the rapprochement to ripened into open relations among Arab countries competing for supremacy in the region but did not happen let alone normalization.
Oman hailed the agreement to normalize ties as boosting “permanent peace” in the Middle East. Eyes are now on other Gulf states to see if any will follow suit, as U.S. and Israeli officials are anticipating.
The Palestinian leadership gave a clear rejection and censure of the unanticipated American, Israeli, and Emirati tripartite declaration on a complete normalization of relations between the Israeli occupation state and the United Arab Emirates and called it a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, and the Palestinian cause.”
The decision by the Emirati may also be seen as a start for its far powerful neighbor, Saudi Arabia, which has close ties with the UAE and has been viewed as informal contacts with Israel but that will take longer as “his society is more conservative and succession politics adds a layer of complications. However, Riyadh will eventually move in a similar direction, albeit at a slower pace and with hesitation given the risks.” said an analyst from Eurasia Group.
“We’re going to get the deal done,” “I’m going to deliver the Palestinians and he” – Trump – “is going to deliver the Israelis.” Mohammad Bin Salman in 2017
Riyadh wants to have closer ties with Tel-Aviv to confront Iran and in return will prod the Palestinians to concede to a much important deal which some call “bankruptcy-type deal” for the Palestinians – in other words, liquidation of their rights.