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Is the Israel-UAE Pact a Real Breakthrough for the Region?

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21 Aug 2020
Is the Israel-UAE Pact a Real Breakthrough for the Region?

Just as the Oslo Accords suddenly sprang from the Norwegian woods back in 1993, last week’s news of a breakthrough in relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates caught everyone by surprise. The region’s attention quickly swung from the fallout of the massive blast in Lebanon to the possibilities of a seismic shift in Israel’s relations with a host of hostile states throughout the Middle East and beyond. Even in Israel, the rancorous ‘black flag’ protests to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly lost steam.

Many hailed the announced deal as a welcome return to the “peace for peace” formula preferred by the Israeli Right, in that Israel was not being asked to concede anything to the UAE in exchange for normalization of relations with the Jewish state. Others cautioned that there indeed might be a quid quo pro, as reports surfaced that, as part of the deal, Israel had agreed for the US Administration to sell the latest F-35 stealth aircraft to the UAE – a move which could seriously undercut the IDF’s qualitative edge over any potential array of foes in the region.

As the truth about the F-35s shakes out, there is no doubt that the so-called “Abrahamic Accord” is a big deal. The Emirates have now become the third Arab state to break from the pack and begin to open formal relations with Israel. Like Egypt and Jordan before them, the UAE rulers will not let the future of their nation and the entire region be held hostage to the unyielding Palestinian nationalist cause. Given the current climate, several other Sunni Arab states could rapidly fall in line behind the UAE in forging peace agreements with Israel.

But why has the UAE gone first? Part of the answer is that the country’s rulers are very forward-looking and want to diversify away from oil dependency and into hi-tech – and what better partner for that than Israel. The Emirati rulers also aspire to be part of the globalization process, pitching Dubai and Abu Dhabi as key hubs for connecting people in the promising new future ahead. They also appear to be very ecumenical minded, wanting to promote tolerance and respect in particular between the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In addition, there seems to be an emerging stream of Muslim Zionists in the Arabian Gulf – those who believe the series of Koranic passages which affirm that the Land of Israel was promised by Allah to the Jews.

Some of these reasons may give many Christians pause. Globalization? Ecumenicism? Muslim Zionism? And aren’t the native Emiratis just 11 percent of the overall population in their own country? We will address these concerns further in coming weeks. But for now, it is quite encouraging for those of us who care about Israel to focus on the enormous potential of this deal.

For starters, Israeli hi-tech companies will now be able to attract investments from not only rich Arab oil sheikhs, but also from the sovereign wealth funds of the UAE, estimated to be worth over $1 trillion dollars. Israelis also will now be able to shop and dine in the luxurious malls and hotel complexes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In addition, there already are rumblings of diplomatic breakthroughs with several other Sunni Arab states, such as Oman, Bahrain and even Morocco. Sudan also is exploring normalization with Israel, after decades of siding with Iran and hosting radical Palestinian and Islamic terror militias on its soil. There also could be a knock-on effect throughout the rest of the world, as many other nations will begin to question why they must maintain a hostile posture towards Israel if so many Arab countries are befriending the Jewish state.

No doubt, US President Donald Trump and his foreign policy team have sprung a real coup for Israel and for all peace-loving nations. Reviled by so many at home and abroad, Trump deserves credit for a breakthrough that supposed ‘peacemakers’ like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama lacked the vision, energy and ability to attain. This also makes Trump’s re-election in November even more critical now for Israel and its emerging Arab peace partners

Not only would Trump and his team be able to continue the momentum of this breakthrough, and spread it to other Arab capitals. They also could continue to uphold a major pillar of the current diplomatic shift in the region – which is that the Sunni Arab bloc has come to trust President Trump when it comes to confronting Iran. He has proven that he is serious about challenging the militant clerical regime in Tehran over its renegade quest for nuclear weapons and its export of terror, weapons and chaos throughout the region.

That is a huge departure from the policies of appeasement toward Iran employed by the previous Administration, which included Vice President Joe Biden. Under Obama/Biden, the Sunni Arab states felt abandoned. Now with Trump they have a sense of reassurance, even to the point of coming out openly about their warming relations with Israel. And let’s not forget how Israelis felt when the Obama team (with no objection from Biden) gave Israel one last parting shot by orchestrating the passage of UN Security Council resolution 2334.

By contrast, a Trump re-election could have many other positive impacts for Israel. For some reason, Trump has not had the international coattails one would expect, since he is actually admired by many national leaders abroad. Yet many nations have held back on following his lead in moving their embassies to Jerusalem, or in recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. This is due in large part to the widespread animosity towards him in the media and concerns he may only be a one-term president. Yet if he wins a second term, I expect many other nations to finally give Jerusalem the respect it deserves and place their embassies in the city. They also may join Trump in recognizing the Golan as Israeli territory, and even change their stance on the legality of the settlements in Judea/Samaria, as Trump did. Time will tell!

 

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

 

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