On August 13, 2020, Trump announced the historic deal between UAE and Israel. The deal is considered ‘game-changer’ by some states and as ‘deceit and betrayal’ by others. The deal, aka Abraham accord, has the potential to influence – if not alter- the geopolitical landscape of the Middle Eastern region. Brokered and backed by Trump, this deal is a foreign policy victory of Trump at a troubled home. This understanding between Arab states is seen as their coalition against a mutual adversary – Iran. However, it has more layers to it. The deal can play a role in creating difficulties for Arab states to choose the sides between the US and China- when the time comes.
What does this mean for both the states? This deal calls for the normalization of relations between UAE and Israel. Although UAE will not open its embassy in Jerusalem but will establish regular diplomatic ties with Israel. On the other hand, like pay off, Israel will halt the annexation of Palestinian land.
The deal got mixed global reaction. The US, Bahrain and Oman lauded it. China also welcomed the deal. While the regional competitors and adversaries Turkey and Iran called it a betrayal to Palestine’s cause and people.
The argument that this deal will propel cooperation between the said states is to weaken Iran is tenuous. Both states already had covert intelligence sharing in this regard and a relationship since 2006. One of UAE’s reasons to jump in this deal might be to move closer to the US, who has kept it at a distance. This deal might open the way to the hitherto F-35 deal for UAE. Since Israel’s technologically most advanced state in the region, it may assist UAE to propel to new heights, leaving richer, bigger, and more influential regional states behind.
Israel got more recognition and a larger footprint in the region. It may open gates for other states to join the UAE in this agenda of normalizing relations with Israel.
On the regional level, the deal defies the Palestine cause. The jargon used in the deal is to “suspend” the annexation must be worrisome for UAE. Israel may start the annexation again, which political agenda of president Netanyahu at home to support its debilitating government. It shattered the hearts of Palestinian people, but it does not concern people of UAE, specifically the youth which is gradually becoming apathetic towards Palestine’s issue. Iran and Turkey, who have opposed the deal, may join together against Israel.
On the global front, Israel uses Arabs states recognition to get a stronger hold in the region and reinforcing its hold on Palestine land. On the other hand, Arab states are using this relationship as a wedge to move closer to the US. Furthermore, the more states come under the umbrella of the US, the more it can push china away from the middle east.
Moreover, China is investing heavily in Iran – the bad guy for Israel, the US, and the Sunni Arab states. China is also creeping into the middle east – a playground for the US – slowly. The more Arab states move closer to Israel, the more they move closer to the US. For the Arab states, this can become a dilemma. The conundrum for UAE is to balance the economic relationship with China and security relationship with the US on the wedge. This balancing act may tilt Arab states towards the US in case of any conflict or cold war 2.0.
While for the US, this deal is a badly needed foreign policy win at home. After denial by the United Nations to tighten Iran’s sanctions, the US is allying with Iran’s enemies to keep an upper hand and shake off Iran’s influence in the region. This deal can be seen as work towards this aim.
Pakistan’s position hitherto remains firm about not recognizing Israel. Its brother Arab states, especially UAE and Saudi Arabia, have a working relationship with Israel. They may pressure Pakistan to follow suit. In this scenario, Pakistan has to be very vigilant while defining its policy. It can neither hurt general public sentiments nor disappoint Palestinian people and consequently Kashmiris – who are facing the same struggle. Moreover, it can also not afford to offend its brotherly states, which, due to religious reasons, have a significant influence on Pakistan’s public. Pakistan can also not join Iran and Turkey’s club- as seen previously when under pressure by Saudi Pakistan refused to participate in a conference hosted by Malaysia and Turkey.
To conclude, it can be said that this deal may have a larger impact in the future to come. The impacts of the deal may be felt not only in the region but globally when the Arab states might have to choose either Chinese or American block. Therefore, all states must devise their policies very prudently, keeping long-term goals in view, not for winning friendships; it is said that there are no permanent friends or enemies in international relations.
Konpal Tahir is a chemical engineer from UET Lahore. She also qualified the CSS examinations in 2018. She has interests in major power politics and environmentalism.