Context:The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to establish formal ties with Israel.
More on the news:
- The deal is looked as a historic breakthrough in Arab-Israel relations.
- The UAE thus became the third Arab country, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, to agree to formally normalize its relationship with Israel as well as the first Persian Gulf country to do so.
- The Israel–UAE normalization agreement is officially called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.Abraham is revered by three religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
- Till the end of World War I, most of the Arabic-speaking lands of West Asia and North Africa were ruled directly or indirectly by the Ottoman Empire.
- Today they constitute the ‘Arab World’or Arab League.
- The Arab League is a union of Arab-speaking African and Asian countries.
- It was formed in Cairo in 1945 to promote the independence, sovereignty, affairs and interests of its 22 member countries and four observers.
- The 22 members of the Arab League are Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
- The four observers are Brazil, Eritrea, India and Venezuela.
- There is a common group of languages as Semitic — principally Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic and Aramaic.
About the deal:
- Build diplomatic relations: According to the joint statement, the UAE and Israel would establish formal diplomatic relations.
- Israel will give up its takeover plans: Israel would suspend its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, having Jewish settlements.
- Expanding ties with Arab world:
- The two Gulf states have, thus, joined Egypt and Jordan which had their peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively.
- Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas of the West Bank and focus its efforts on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.
- Bilateral agreements: Delegations from Israel and the UAE would meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding - investment, tourism, direct flights, security, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, etc.
Multiple drivers behind the deal
- Iran factor: Israel, the UAE and Bahrain share the common threat perception of Iran against the backdrop of the ongoing diminution of Pax Americana in the region.
- Their shared concern is about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran criticised both deals.
- Economic revival: They are relatively more modern societies which share the overarching and immediate priority of post-pandemic economic resuscitation.
Background of Arab-Israeli conflict
- Ties historically have been conflict-ridden: Arab countries (including Egypt, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq) - fought their first war with Israel in 1948 after the formation of the state of Israel was announced.
- The Israeli annexation: The war ended with Israel capturing more territories, including West Jerusalem, which was originally proposed by the UN Partition Plan as a Jewish state. Three more major wars: After that, Israel and Arab states fought - the 1956 Suez conflict, the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
- Outcome: After the 1967 war in which Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria, Arab countries convened in Khartoum and declared their famous three “‘Nos’-
- No peace with Israel,
- No talks with Israel and
- No recognition of Israel.
- Camp David Accords of 1978: The successor of the Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser, started making plans to get Sinai back from Israel. Israel and Egypt concluded the peace treaty, as part of which Israel withdrew from Sinai in return for Egyptian recognition.
- The Oslo Accords: Under this the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) recognised Israel and was allowed to form the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, time was ripe for an Israel-Jordan deal.
- Washington Declaration: In 1994 Jordan became the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Importance of the deal for Arab-Israeli relations:
- A landmark agreement: Given that the UAE is only the third Arab country and the first in the Gulf region to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
- A new chapter in the ties: The UAE-Israel agreement comes after 26 years and if more countries in the Gulf follow the UAE’s lead, it would open a new chapter in Arab-Israel ties.
- Shared interests:
- The Jordanian-Israeli treaty came after Israel agreed to the formation of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza.
- But in the UAE-Israel deal, Israel has not made any actual concession to the Palestinians as the annexation plan was a threat.
- Although formally committed to an Arab consensus over a two-state resolution of the Palestine cause, the UAE and Bahrain have steadily moved towards having substantive links with Israel in recent years.
- Hence, the ‘Abraham Accords’ entered with the UAE and Bahrain are ‘peace-for-peace’ deals without any physical quid pro quo by Israel.
Implications of the deal:
- For the Palestinians:
- Palestinian issues ignored: Unlike the past two Arab-Israeli peace agreements, Palestinians do not figure prominently in the current one.
- Geopolitical implications of the deal:
- The UAE-Israel deal could sharpen the tripolar contest that is already at work in West Asia.
- The Saudi bloc, consisting of Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and others, see their interests being aligned with that of the U.S. and Israel and their support for Palestine is dwindling.
- Turkey and Iran emerge as the strongest supporters of the Palestinians in the Muslim world.
- Relevance of Arab League:
- The deal is the success of Israel’s grand strategy aimed to gain the major political-security goal of countering Arab hostility through relations with alternate regional powers and potential allies.
- The Arab states professed unity of opinion on the demand for a Palestinian state.
- But now questons have arisen weteher regional level deals will have an impact on perceptions of the Palestinian problem or not.
- Lack of reforms: A UNDP Human Development Report many points to deficits of knowledge, freedom and empowerment of women. Thus, absence of participatory governance and its institutions, disregard for individual freedoms, and the prevalence of one-person rule resulted in failure of Arab League.
- The Arab Uprising of 2011 showed deep disagreements within the Arab world.
Significance for India
- Israel’s treaty with Egypt and Jordan did not have any major impact on India as our ties with them were relatively insignificant but now the case is different.
- Growing socio economic engagements with Israel and the Gulf countries:
- India has eight million Indian diaspora in the Gulf which remits annually nearly $50 billion
- There is an annual merchandise trade of over $150 billion, sourcing nearly two-thirds of India’s hydrocarbon imports, major investments, etc.
Implications for India:
- Diplomatic: In general, the Israel-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) eases India’s diplomatic balancing act on the Palastinian issue.
- Strategic: A new arena of the proxy war between Iran and Israel cannot be ruled out, particularly in Shia pockets.
- India would have to be on its guard to monitor and even pre-empt any threat to its interests in the Gulf.
- Economic fallout:
- Currently, India is the preferred source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gem and jewellery, light engineering items, etc in the gulf. But Israel can become a tough competitor to India.
- Israel has niche strengths in defence, security and surveillance equipment, arid farming, solar power, horticultural products, high-tech, gem and jewellery, and pharmaceuticals.
- Israel has the potential to supply skilled and semi-skilled manpower to the GCC states, particularly from the Arabic speaking Sephardim and Mizrahim ethnicities.
- Israel is known as the start-up nation and its stakeholders could easily fit in the various duty-free incubators in the UAE.
- One-State solution: The Arab World in a geopolitical sense no longer exists. It will retain its focus on linguistic homogeneity and attendant cultural glory.
- The Palestinian leadership should recraft its policies in the new situation.
- The promised Two-state solution seems impossible. So it would be better to explore a One-state solution and use Gandhian principles to seek justice within that One-state.
- For India: There is a scope for a profitable trilateral synergy between India, Israel and the Arab world but Israeli foray into the Gulf has the potential to disrupt the existing politico-economic relations between India and GCC states.
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Q) The Arab World in a geopolitical sense no longer exists. The Palestinian leadership should recraft its policies in the new situation created after the signing of the Abraham Accords. Discuss. (250 words)