Israel And the United Arab Emirates last Thursday signed an important agreement towards improving relations. Years later, this is the first step between Israel and an Arab majority country. Every country involved had an opportunity to end decades of hostilities. However, after the deal, the UAE has also suffered the ire of many Arab countries, which have been hostile to Israel for years. The greatest critic of the settlement was Israeli-occupied Palestinians, who have denounced the agreement as a betrayal of their interests and rights. For decades, there was a consensus among many Arab and Muslim-majority countries that they would not end hostilities with Israel until a state was agreed to give Palestine statehood. On the other hand, the UAE argues that it has succeeded in preventing Israel from occupying more territory in the West Bank (part of Palestine). For Israel, the deal is important to end regional isolation and increase its international stature. In such a situation, where will regional alliances last when there is tension with other countries.
Egypt and Jordan
Israel and neighbouring Arab majority countries fought several wars in the early decades after the declaration of the country of Azad in 1948. Then in 1979 Egypt became the first country to sign a peace deal with Israel. According to the terms Israel agreed to return the Sinai Peninsula, which was annexed in 1973.
The Arab League suspended Egypt’s membership after the agreement was signed. Jordan was the second country to recognize Israel and sign a peace treaty in 1994. Jordan, with a population of half Palestinian descent since 1948, often represented Palestine in diplomatic practice. For Jordan, the deal focused on trade incentives from Israel and the United States. The treaty marked a new turning point in Jordan-Israel and Palestine relations. Meanwhile, Israel held secret talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which became the official representative body of the Palestinians. But despite the treaty, Israel’s relations with Egypt and Jordan have declined. There is close security cooperation in these countries and the people of Israel often holiday in Sinai, Egypt. People have feelings for Palestinian rights and against Israel.
Morocco and Tunisia
Both countries have no formal peace agreement with Israel, but relations are relatively stable. Israelis can travel to Morocco and Tunisia in addition to Egypt and Jordan on a passport. Prior to 1948, Jewish communities were strong in many Middle-Eastern and North African countries, including Morocco and Tunisia, but things changed after the establishment of Israel and the large-scale migration to Israel. However, Israelis of Moroccan and Tunisian origin maintained cultural connections in these countries and both countries also came and went.
Persian Gulf Countries
The Persian Gulf country Bahrain has indicated openness to formalize relations with Israel and also praises the leadership of the UAE. In this case, Saudi Arabia, the key player of the hitherto silent Sunni countries, had formed an alliance against Shia-dominated Iran. In 2002, Saudi Arabia was again pushed forward for peace. Which has called for Israel to return occupied Palestinian land in 1967? Now, while Saudi Arabia is strengthening privately relations with Israel, analysts opine that public announcements may still be politically risky. Saudi plays an important religious role as the patron of the two holiest cities of Islam in the region. Freedom of expression is highly restricted in both the conservative countries, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Why Middle East countries are disturbed?
Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Kurds
Lebanon, Syria and Iraq all have no diplomatic relations with Israel. Lebanon and Israel have fought many wars. Until the withdrawal of Israeli troops in 2000, Israel was occupied by southern Lebanon for a decade and a half. The conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, a southern Lebanese-based Iran-backed insurgent group, continued for years. Although Hezbollah is a recognized political party in Lebanon. Similarly, there were many wars between Syria and Israel. In 1967 Israel captured the Golan Heights. However, Syria is still illegally occupied in some parts. On the other hand, Israel’s relations with Iraq are tense. Israel formed a secret alliance with the Kurds in northern Iraq. Although there is no formal relationship between the two, the trade and intelligence partnership remains.
Is the Middle East moving towards another ‘Arab Spring’?
Iran and Turkey
The governments of Iran and Israel were very close before the 1979 revolution. All changed after the Iranian Shah coup and the rise of the current democratic government. The majority of the population in Iran is Shia Muslims. Iran still has a large Jewish community, though most migrated to the United States and Israel. After Iran’s alliance with other Arab states, Israel perceived it as a threat to itself. On the other hand, there are close military ties between Turkey and Israel. The relationship has deteriorated in recent years, as Turkey is looking for a major regional role. Turkey has also condemned the agreement with the UAE.