Great time for US President Donald Trump. Today’s signing of an agreement to normalize relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is likened by some optimists to Oslo peace treaties or the signing of a peace treaty with Egypt, pessimists describe it as a peace treaty between states that have never fought together.
After Bahrain also announced the normalization of relations, the Jewish state will be recognized by four Arab countries – the above-mentioned Egyptians and Jordanians have already made peace with it.
“They are telling the whole story of the Jews in the region again. And they change the whole narrative: they no longer say that they hate Israel and that the Jews are bad, that they want them to disappear, but that they need them against Iran. They say that the Jews belong here, they are not foreigners and that the Palestinians must accept it, “former Israeli politician Einnat Wilf told The New York Times.
Bahrain is acting as the Saudis want
The signing of peace agreements is also the pre-election trump card of Donald Trump, who already desperately needed some success in complex Middle East politics. His “agreement of the century,” as he called his peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, is still a long way off, but we can still talk about a success that will change the decades-long state of affairs.
The island state of Bahrain is the smallest country in the Persian Gulf with 1.5 million inhabitants, but the signing of an agreement with it is still important for Israel. Bahrain is a country in which the Saudis have great influence, and it is difficult to imagine that an agreement with the Israelis would have taken place without the blessing of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia’s influence in Bahrain is also evidenced by the events of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011 – when protests from the Shiite opposition broke out in the metropolis of Manama, Saudi Arabia sent a thousand troops to the country, who, along with five hundred other UAE men, severely suppressed the insurgency.
Even Saudi Arabia itself does not hide a certain warming of relations with Israel. Although the kingdom said that until the Palestinian state was formed, relations with Israel would not be normalized, it would still allow it to fly through its airspace, which was previously taboo. A certain brake on a closer relationship with Israel is allegedly the aging King Salman, who, unlike his son, adheres more to the long-standing policy of the Arab states towards Israel.
At the same time, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain may not be by far the last states to find their way to Israel. Diplomats and analysts are already speculating on who will be next – most often they mention Sudan and Oman. After all, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the Sultan of Oman in person during a surprise visit in 2018. Over the weekend, the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post also reported that Morocco was preparing to launch direct flights to Israel. But later Moroccan government sources called it fake news.
Ganc stayed at home, the Hungarians arrived
The real impact of the current treaties on developments in the Middle East is far from clear. “If used effectively, they can be the basis for renewed efforts to speed up a two-state solution. But this must be led by a US administration determined to reach a two-state solution, which is not Trump’s plan, “Daniel Shapiro, the former US ambassador to Israel, told AP.
🤦🏽♀️ @BarakRavid reports: Netanyahu political adviser & deputy NSA Reuven Azar violated the rules set by the prime minister’s office for all members of the Israeli delegation to Washington. Azar went for a run outside the hotel despite the ban on leaving the hotel. https://t.co/Njw0JywQ6F
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) September 14, 2020
In Israel, where the national wave of coronavirus pandemics has come into force again, the issue of normalizing relations with Arab states is now somewhat overshadowed. However, the media noted that only Prime Minister Netanyahu had traveled to Washington with his people, and his coalition partner Benny Ganc, who would replace him after 18 months, was no longer invited.
Of the European statesmen, only Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó will take part in today’s ceremony. It is the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán that is closest to Trump and Netanyahu from all over Europe.
Despite the ceremonial signing, the entire agreement has yet to be approved by the Israeli Knesset.