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GlobalData’s MEED: Israel deal confirms UAE's focus on the future

(August 14, 2020)--Following the news that the UAE and Israel have agreed to the full normalization of relations, and that Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over Palestinian areas outlined in US President Donald Trump’s Vision for Peace presented in January this year;

Richard Thompson, Editorial Director at GlobalData’s MEED, offers his view:

Israel is now officially recognized as a sovereign state by the UAE. Symbolically, it is a historic moment. Until now, Jordan and Egypt were the only Arab countries to accept Israel’s right to exist. All other Arab states refused to officially acknowledge Israel. There were no diplomatic connections, no direct flights, no trade links. In reality, however, the announcement was inevitable. It was a question of timing. For the UAE, that time is now.

“It is the next step of a reality that has been building for many years and it is official confirmation that for the leaders of many Arab states today, the Arab Israeli conflict is no longer the central issue defining Middle East politics.

“As the US continues its disengagement from the region, stability and security has prioritized close cooperation between the Gulf states and Israel, who are united by fear of the common enemy in Tehran.

“For many Palestinians, it is a heartbreaking moment. While the agreement suspends Israel’s sovereignty claims and further annexation of Palestinian territory, it promises little more than ‘future dialogue’ on Palestinian statehood and their rights in their own land. It also confirms that Palestinians have become little more than observers in Palestine. Palestinian leaders have described it as a betrayal.

“Other critics of the agreement, which was announced in a joint statement after talks between Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, US President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say that it is little more than a marketing stunt by Trump and Netanyahu in the run up to difficult elections

For the UAE, it is a significant statement of its agenda, of where it sees its place in the world. Abu Dhabi knows that many people across the region – the proverbial Arab man in the street - and around the world will disapprove of its actions. Previously, this would have been a decisive in preventing such as deal. The agreement highlights that in an increasingly unstable, uncertain world, the UAE is prioritizing a forward-looking agenda of achieving its vision of where it wants to be, over a historical view of what others say that it is supposed to be.

“Some will say that this is a triumph of ambition over ideals. But the deal is not simply about politics and military security. It is also about long-term economic and political sustainability in a post-US, post-oil Middle East. As for the UAE, it is about leading the region into that new reality.

“As well as announcing the full normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, the agreement promises cooperation between the region’s two most advanced economies across a wide range of economic areas, including investment, tourism, direct flights, security and a host of other areas. For business in the UAE, a major new market has just opened up. There is no doubt that will be commercial opportunities for many establishment entities. Enabling Palestinian businesses to be at the forefront of these opportunities should be made a priority.  

“Despite this, the UAE faces significant political risks from the agreement. It is not the comprehensive peace deal claimed by Trump. Israel is being rewarded for suspending the illegal annexation of Palestinian territory. And ‘suspension’ does not mean ending. How long can Tel Aviv be relied on to honor the agreement? And what happens if it reneges?”