- Palestinians reject it, as a betrayal that uses them as a fig-leaf.
- Autocratic Arab regimes seeking to curry favor with USA and Israel against Iran, like Egypt and Bahrain, are hailing it.
- In between there is also silence by regimes which are wary of congratulating the selling-out of Palestinians.
- Joe Biden said he is “gratified” by the deal.
Let’s cut through the romanticism of love and peace and Israeli tourists visiting Dubai. This deal has real and harmful consequences for Palestinians. “They are actually harming us,” says Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization. “They have taken away our voice. We don’t need anyone to speak on our behalf”.
Indeed, no Palestinians are even asked to take part in the deliberations of this deal, which like the Trump “deal of the century”, makes plans above their heads. The deal with UAE supposedly “suspends”, for a while, Israel’s threatened annexation of nearly a third of the Occupied West Bank, in return for full and open normalization of relations. But this does not in any way mean an Israeli withdrawal or anything of the sort. It simply means that the status quo which is de facto annexation, becomes extended for some time, while the relations that UAE anyway had with Israel come into the open. Israel’s Apartheid is veiled again, in return for UAE’s veil removed.
None of this helps Palestinians in any way. The Arab refusal to normalize relations with Israel is supposed to be tied to a settlement that provides the Palestinians national freedom, justice and equality. This provides none of it.
The Times of Israel reports a senior UAE official saying that “Abu Dhabi remained committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative”. But that initiative of 2002 speaks of a two-state solution based upon 1967 lines with a “just solution” to the refugee question. There is no such current prospect as far as Israel is concerned. Are we meant to believe that travels to Dubai will make Israeli leaders more malleable?
The ties between Israel and oppressive authoritarian Arab regimes are useful for these regimes in terms of security. In the case of the Saudi murder of journalist Jamal Khashhoggi, the Israeli NSO software Pegasus was allegedly involved in tracking his movement. There is also a convergence of Sunni Arab regimes against Iran, where US military support is naturally tied to Israeli military export interests. This is a developing market. “They are security states and want to have security ties with Israel,” said Diana Buttu.
This is like with the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. The hope for Israel was that this would bring other countries to follow suit. Yesterday, Netanyahu said that “many, many states see Israel as a strategic ally for stability, for security, for advancement and also for peace… There will be other Arab and Muslim states that will join the circle of peace with us”.
That “circle of peace” is alas a cabal of war, which aids Israel not only in terms of regional strategic relations against Iran, but also in terms of weakening political solidarity with the Palestinian case. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy says that the Palestinians are being left “bleeding, on the side of the road”.
We don’t know for how long the annexation will be held off – Netanyahu accentuates that it is in no way off the table – but in any case, the formal declaration or lack of it changes nothing for the Palestinians – the reality is the same. And this deal certainly doesn’t advance the prospects of things improving for Palestinians.
We do not know how serious the Israeli intent to annex at this point really was. Could it be that it was mostly a spin, as far as Netanyahu was concerned? Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum called it “a great example of threatening to do something over the top and then benefitting by keeping things exactly as they are.”
Opposition to annexation was also very much a cause for Israel supporters who believe that formalizing Apartheid will expose Israel to global charges of being an Apartheid state – in other words, a PR problem. This explains Joe Biden’s gratification over the deal:
“The coming together of Israel and Arab states builds on the efforts of multiple administrations to foster a broader Arab-Israeli opening, including the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to build on the Arab Peace Initiative. I personally spent time with leaders of both Israel and the UAE during our administration building the case for cooperation and broader engagement and the benefits it could deliver to both nations, and I am gratified by today’s announcement.”
His concern as an avid Israel apologist is very much how Israel looks, and how he looks in supporting it.
But there is nothing in this deal which is of any real substance pertaining to “peace” beyond cosmetics. Israel and the UAE were not in war with each other; they were not contesting each other’s territory. This is a business deal. The UAE sold out Palestinians, and now it’s in the open.