Agreement with the Emirates: a big step forward

Many in Israel were surprised by the announcement of a peace or normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The general opinion is that there could not be peace in the Middle East until an independent Palestinian state emerges within the so-called 1967 borders. An opinion shared by the countries of the European Union which have not still reacted to the news.

The Arab-Israeli conflict can be viewed from several angles. As the Palestinians rejected all peace initiatives, Benjamin Netanyahu chose another approach. He has developed links with the Arab countries of the second circle, those who have never waged war with Israel and feel neither bitterness nor hatred towards him but have let themselves be involved in the conflict because they are Muslims and Arabs and as such , members of the Arab League. Little by little some understood that this position was contrary to their vital interests. The first were the Gulf countries and Morocco, more pragmatic and more stable, which enabled them to overcome the events of the Arab Spring without too much difficulty. The others, as we know, fell into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, under the control of Iran or plunged into civil war.

The Iranian threat is one of the factors in the rapprochement with Israel. Already in 2009, a high-ranking official of the Gulf Cooperation Council openly declared that the Gulf countries were convinced that Israel would come to their aid and destroy the Iranian nuclear sites.

Over the past ten years, the Jewish state has stepped up efforts to create links with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. Initially, through hidden contacts, unofficial meetings with former personalities. Gradually, with growing confidence, we moved on to large-scale security cooperation. Israeli ministers and up to the prime minister have visited various countries, which have started letting Israeli athletes participate in international sports meetings. Arab leaders realized what Israel had to offer in science and technology, agriculture, the use of water resources. No wonder then that the first to take the plunge is Emir Mohammed Ben Zaid, the crown prince of the emirates and the one who governs them in fact. MBZ, as he is colloquially called, is very close to the Saudi Crown Prince- MBS – whom he is in fact the mentor and who is, like him, determined to develop his country, to ensure its security and to make it a determining factor. In the region.

MBZ is aware of the intolerable threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and has endeavored to limit their influence, not hesitating to warn Europe and the United States of their danger. He did not hesitate to join forces with Saudi Arabia to fight against the Houthis of Yemen who threatened the security of the entire Arab peninsula and navigation in the Red Sea. This is how he spent billions of dollars to modernize and develop major ports along southern Yemen, the Gulf of Aden, the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea., to ensure the trade of his country with the Middle East, East Africa and to Europe. In addition, the UAE is cooperating closely with China, allowing it to store its goods and transfer them to these ports, which are links on the new Silk Road to Europe that China is setting up at a cost. estimated at half a trillion dollars. The Emirates have just commissioned the first atomic reactor in the Arab world providing electricity, in strict compliance with the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear non-proliferation agreement. MBZ also acts hand in hand with Egypt to assist General Khalifa Haftar in its struggle against the Islamic organizations in Libya supported by Turkey.

This is therefore Israel’s new ally. The encounter between its immense reserves of petrodollars and Israel’s scientific and technological capacities can not only benefit both parties but also have a positive influence on the other Gulf countries. Bahrain would be ready to follow his example and serious discussions would be on the verge of being concluded. The position of Saudi Arabia, guardian of the high places of Islam, is more delicate and it is difficult for it to have open contacts with Israel; there is no doubt that a “diplomatic” solution will nevertheless be found. There is also talk of Oman, Sudan and Morocco but there is no rush. These countries will wait to see how things develop.

As for the Palestinians, a solution will have to be found, but faced with the daring Israeli policy, they can only note that their Arab brothers are no longer ready to accept a veto that harms their interests. They will have to revise their copy and seek a new path. Especially since MBZ has an unexpected advantage:    Mohammed Dahlan , formerly a senior Fatah official in Gaza today sworn enemy of Abu Mazen, has the ear of the emir who offered him hospitality. This could allow him to pose as the successor of a discredited leader who could soon leave the front of the stage.

Zvi Mazel , former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, Romania and Sweden and researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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