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Changing Balance of Power in the Middle East: Deal of UAE and Israel

by Didem ÖZÇAKIR

The United Arab Emirates has announced that it is going to fully normalize its relations with Israel on 13th August 2020. With the agreement which has the name Abraham Accord United Arab Emirates now becomes the thirds Arab nation and the first Gulf state to normalize its relations with Israel. This agreement symbolizes a long-term trade in the Middle East: a tendency to normalize relations with Israel against newer rivalries. What are the reasons for such a tendency? Why are people calling this agreement “backstabbing”?

The tension between Israel and Arab states dates back to 1948 when Israel was created in Palestinian land after the Second World War. During the establishment process, the world saw another massacre in Palestinian land. Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon combined in a war. This was the first point in which a decade's long rivalry in the region between the Muslim Arab states and Israel started. In 1967, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, the West Bank, Syrian Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem, launching the first major offensive for taking Palestinian land. Israel achieved this in just six days, making the war to be called "Six-Day War". During the following decades, Palestinian land literally shrank- Israel has been creating settlements and using military force to take the land. While all of these were happening, Israel had the chance of joining the United Nations whereas Palestine was prevented from joining due to the vetoes of the United States. In 1973, Egypt had a semi victory when it managed to take the Sinai Peninsula back. Egypt became the first Arab nation to recognize Israel in 1979 when they took the decision of establishing full diplomatic ties with the nation. In 1994, Jordan became the second Arabic country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel after signing a peace treaty. The region saw perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis throughout the 2000s and 2010s in the world: Palestinians still not getting a stronghold in the region and thousands of people dying in attacks. 

Leaders of the Arab world would always hold a strong pro-Palestinian stance throughout the second half of the twentieth century, thus the recent agreement of UAE and Israel came out as a surprise for most people. The Palestinians called this decision “backstabbing” and “hypocrisy” since their only hope for international recognition is the support of their Muslim allies. However, this agreement signifies a trend that has been building up for the last decade in the region. Most of the Arab states now perceive Iran as a bigger threat to their power than that of Israel. It can be said that Saudi Arabia and Iran are having a "cold war": think of the conflicts in Yemen or Syria. US support for Arab states against Iran also accelerates this tendency. We can think that the states now want to unite against a common threat, or at least forget their problems from the history which will complicate holding a strange stance against Iran.

Another reason why people are not surprised by such a deal is due to its economic implications. The United Arab Emirates hosts the biggest technology and finance hub in the region: Dubai. Besides, Israel also has very advanced firms in technology and health. This agreement also facilitates the business potential of these groups, increasing the economic power for both countries.

There are also multiple countries that do not want such an affiliation in the region: Iran and Turkey. Considering how these countries are struggling to have a bigger role in the politics of the Middle East, it is no surprise that they do not support the Abraham Accord.

By signing this agreement Israel accepts freezing their annexation for the Palestinian land. However, some critiques are skeptical if this is going to be real or not. We will see in the following years how the other Arabic nations and Gulf states will choose to shape their policy against Israel in the light of Iran and economic cooperation. (1)


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