The Abraham Accord: one hit wonder or good politics? – Republican Article
As if 2020 was not already full enough of surprises, August brought us the Abraham Accord. In a truly historic move, Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to full normalization of relations.
The Abraham Accord lays out various strategies to further develop the relationship between Israel and the UAE. From establishing embassies to allowing direct commercial flights between the countries, it is a holistic approach to building a normalized relationship between the two countries. Most notably, Israel agreed to suspend further annexation of the West Bank.
The Abraham Accord should prove to be beneficial economically, politically, culturally, and scientifically for the two countries. Following nearly four years of foreign policy failures, the deal provides the US with a much-needed victory.
The UAE is the third Arab country to reach such an agreement, with Egypt normalizing its relationship with Israel in 1979, and Jordan in 1994.
The recently appointed Norwegian Ambassador to Israel Kåre Aas believes that “The agreement is a valuable contribution towards stability and peaceful relations in the region – it will be important to see how further regional developments play out.”
The deal, however, is not free of controversy. First, the negative reaction from Palestinian leaders regarding the suspension of Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas considers the deal a stab in the back. He claims Palestinian officials were not aware of the deal. It is understandable that the Palestinian government feels this way; they were essentially a pawn for Israel and the UAE to negotiate with.
Roughly 80% of Israeli citizens support the normalization of relations with the UAE. Yet, there has been a surge in support for the Yamina bloc, a coalition of ultranationalist parties. The Yamina bloc is a major player in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s success and with the decision to suspend annexation, he has gone back on a major political promise: to formally include the Biblical lands of Judea and Samira into contemporary Israel. This could be potentially disastrous for Netanyahu, as the Yamina bloc comprises a significant proportion of his voter base.
The deal has also potentially threatened Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) in the region. In the agreement, the Trump administration agreed to sell F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. Such a decision would give the UAE access to the same cutting-edge technology Israel has access too, thanks to QME. Despite the normalization of relations, Israel still would like to retain this technological advantage. For the US, however, it is a strategic advantage to have multiple allies in the region fielding the latest in fighter jet technology.
But is this deal truly a stab in the back? Or is it a step in the right direction for renewed peace deals between Israel and Palestine?
On one hand, it could be seen as quite troubling for Palestine as the UAE agreed upon this deal without requesting that Israel make any land concessions; they simply paused any further plans of annexation. But on the other hand, this suspension also helps defuse the ticking time bomb that was the annexation plan. Had that plan gone forward, any chance for a two-state solution would have been severed entirely.
Arguably, the biggest victory of this deal for the US is the bolstering of a de facto alliance against Iran in the Middle East.
With the UAE and Israel now officially working together, the US can continue to expand its sphere of influence in the Middle East, countering Iran’s growing influence in the region. Despite having less than 10 million citizens, the UAE is the second-largest economy in the Arab world. Furthermore, Israel has already proven itself to be a worthy military strength in the region.
Through established diplomatic relations, shared intelligence, and military cooperation, Iran finds itself increasingly isolated in the region. This is the exact goal of the US, to isolate them economically and diplomatically from the world.
Another major US ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, has neither supported nor opposed the deal. However, they did permit the first direct commercial flight between Israel and the UAE to cross their airspace. While a similar deal is unlikely to occur between Israel and Saudi Arabia – unless Israel is willing to make large concessions in the two-state solution – the fact that they did not oppose the deal is yet another victory for the US’ position in the Middle East.
Despite the controversy, the Trump administration and Jared Kushner must be acknowledged for this monumental agreement. Moving forward, the normalization of relations between Israel and other Arab states is not out of the picture, but will definitely require further concessions from Israel. This deal will hopefully set in motion a new approach to Middle Eastern affairs for the US. The timing of this deal is also critical with the upcoming election in November and can prove to be an important victory for Trump in terms of foreign policy, helping him regain support from a substantial voter base: conservatives and evangelicals.
Written by Republican Writer, Sebastian Calcopietro
Point of Information
Bold, but not unexpected – A Democrat Response
Indeed, the Abraham Accord reflects a historic moment for an Arab Muslim country to sign an accord and officially start its diplomatic relations with Israel. However, it is not shocking news. Diplomatic relations are not built overnight. Years of behind the scene dialogues and mutual understanding led to this, so to a certain extent, it was expected.
However, it does take courage to declare an official relation, despite the normality for administrations to have backdoor links. When you know that there is no one strong enough to challenge you, courage strengthens automatically.
Israel’s concession to suspend further annexation of the West Bank is also not something out of context. Keeping the previous record of powerful nations in mind, this agreement can be breached anytime with Israel getting away unquestioned. And, as Sebastian discusses, the Israel government will soon take some steps to satiate the rage from the Yamina bloc. So to be practical, let’s not place too much hope with the agreement of suspending further annexation of the West Bank.
Trump does claim the credit for making the Abraham Accord possible since it happened during his reign. The US gets a much bigger profit than its efforts in making the alliance happen. New economic and arms deals are just a few of these.
Additionally, there is practically no Muslim bloc to give a tough time to UAE on its bold move. Saudi Arabia has always been an ally to the US and Israel; the rest of the Middle Eastern powers are no longer in a state to challenge anyone. If there was ever a leader with the power or will, by now they are all either executed, murdered or struggling to save their own throne.
Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, the picture becomes more clear. The US has a stronger hold in the region than ever before. It is in a much better position to give a tough time to Iran.
The reaction of the Palestinian government is also predictable. While it is strange that they are always looking to Muslim countries for moral support, this is politics. Every country is struggling for its survival. So everyone has the right to first take care of its own home. The values of standing for honour or word are not so popular in the politics of this era. That’s a bitter reality.
Negotiation and diplomatic relations is the only way to solve the two-state problem. The world has long moved on from the era of finding a solution by war. But there is a greater need for Israel to come to the table. As long as the stronger keeps pointing its gun, the weaker will have no choice but to defend itself.
The first priority of weaker nations is always to find a solution by negotiation because they are aware of their weakness. So unless the stronger opponent comes to negotiation, the will of the weaker has no value. With a relatively notorious reputation of committing humanitarian crimes, Israel now has a great opportunity to gain back standing in the international community by abiding the agreement made with UAE. It should also show its generosity and honour by taking the first step to solve the issue with Palestine.
Written by Democrat writer, Shamamah Dogar
Abbas won’t stand for this again – A Foreign Perspective
The Abraham Accord is, as Sebastian says, a truly historic move. For Israel, it gives them the air of legitimacy in the region that they so desperately seek. The UAE will benefit from a stronger relationship with the United States. For the Trump Administration and the US, it consolidates their relationship with the UAE and marks a sign to his voters that he is continuing his work in the Middle East, especially with Israel.
I’m not sure, however, why my colleague sees the deal as a “stab in the back” for Abbas and the people of Palestine. Yes, they were left out of the negotiations – and this has angered Abbas greatly – but this is only in line with Palestine’s fervent opposition to the Trump peace plan for the Israeli-Palestine issue. They are understandably upset about not being involved but will be happy with the result.
Sebastian is right, though, to say that Palestine will be feeling like a pawn. Netanyahu, some argue, only proposed the annexation of the West Bank as a bargaining chip to bring the UAE (with whom Israel already had a relatively good relationship) to the table.
Realistically, I’m not sure this is a tactic that Israel will be able to use so effectively again. They gave up nothing that they already owned and gained a lot. I think, as Sebastian puts it, the strategy of the Abraham Accord is a “one-hit wonder”.
Written by Foreign Perspective Writer, Fergus Harris