UAE–Israel Peace Treaty Signals Big Changes on Horizon

New agreement will make Iran even more desperate to maintain relevance in rapidly changing—and more ‘Israel-tolerant’—Mideast
August 20, 2020 Updated: August 23, 2020

Commentary

The Israeli peace deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is viewed as a very smart deal, with the latter acknowledging the reality and legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

The treaty also reveals a new approach to an old problem by the United States, which brokered the deal.

Direct Result of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’

There are several things that make this peace treaty pivotal for the region. For one, it’s not a cross-border agreement. Unlike Egypt and Jordan, who have signed peace treaties after being defeated on the battlefield by the formidable Israeli Defense Force, the UAE is nowhere near Israel and faces no such threat from the Jewish state.

Out-of-the-box thinking is a central aspect to President Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal” and is seen in the so-called “Deal of the Century” roadmap to peace he crafted for Israel and the Palestinians. That deal, however, remains unsigned. But it has yielded at least one with the UAE that will be signed.

As one of many Islamic states in the Gulf Region, the UAE doesn’t face the possibility of an Israeli military ground force sweeping over its territory in the event of a conflict. And, on the flip side, no Israeli military planner has ever worried about the armies from the UAE invading Israel in a surprise attack.

The fact that the UAE didn’t have to sign any kind of deal with Israel, nor are they a big player in the region, is a key point. But they have done so anyway. That’s one of several reasons why some are viewing it as a stroke of sheer geopolitical genius by the Trump administration.

New Message to Islamic World

Why, then, did the UAE, a Muslim nation, make peace with Israel?

Israel, after all, is regarded by most Muslim nations as an occupying force in the land of Palestine. All the wars and intifadas waged against Israel have been from that perspective, with the stated goal—even today among Palestinians and others—of the destruction of Israel.

Yet coincidently, those nations and entities that have waged war with Israel, from Egypt to Jordan to Syria and the Palestinians, have all languished in economic malaise for decades.

At the same time, Israel has grown rich and technologically advanced, leading the world in cybersecurity, the biological sciences, and many other fields, as well as turning the formerly desolate land into verdant fields and a major exporter of fruits, vegetables, and even fine wine.

Understandably, the UAE, with its newly launched Martian probe, the first such achievement in the Arab world, has much more in common with Israel than with the Palestinian Authority or Iran.

Clearly, the UAE views Israel in a more positive light. With Israel the dominant economic, military, and scientific power in the region, why wouldn’t they want to reap the economic and scientific benefits that peace would likely bring?

Besides, Israeli doctors are getting close to a coronavirus vaccine. The UAE can’t expect a cure to come from the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, or Yemen, can they?

Sure, it’s possible, but not very likely.

A Message to Palestinians, Too

The new peace agreement also is a clear message to the Palestinians. To put it bluntly, peace with Israel is no longer dependent on the Palestinian question. Over the past several decades, the Palestinian leadership has blown chance after chance for a two-state solution.

Why should the entire region be held hostage to the corrupt buffoonery of the so-called Palestinian leaders?

That’s not just the viewpoint of the UAE, either. Saudi Arabian leaders are thinking the same thing. And Israel has no gripe with the Emirates or the Saudis. In fact, Israel has been working closely in a security context with several Gulf states.

What’s more, the UAE’s actions have now put enormous pressure on Palestinian leadership, such as it is, to do something to improve the future of their people.

The Camel’s Nose Under the ‘Peace With Israel’ Tent?

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has yet to comment on the treaty. They haven’t approved of it yet, but they certainly haven’t condemned it. As noted above, they continue to work closely with Israel on security. They are also close to the UAE, and likely have given their tacit approval.

In that light, it wouldn’t be surprising to see other Gulf states sign peace treaties with Israel, especially those that are high on Iran’s hit list. That would include Saudi Arabia, of course, but it may also include Oman and Bahrain, too. Even Sudan may have an interest in doing so.

A Diminished—and Desperate Iran

Unlike in the past, the common thread that runs through all discussions really isn’t the Palestinian cause, at least, not anymore. Now, it’s the widespread concern among the wealthy oil sheikdoms of Iranian aggression.

In that context, Israel has effectively diminished Iran’s nuclear capabilities and continues to do so with military strikes on installations inside Iran. It also counters Iranian military positions in Syria and Lebanon. As far as the Gulf states are concerned, as the old Middle Eastern aphorism goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Israel is more than happy to fulfill that role if it yields a peace dividend.

But as those relationships are established and developed, Iran’s prestige and influence in the Mideast and the region at large may well diminish, despite its proxy wars in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Israel. Such a failure would threaten the power of the Islamic clerics who have run Iran into the ground for the past 40 years.

Mideast Is Polarizing

The downside of Muslim nations making overt peace with Israel is that they can no longer hide behind the ambiguity of anti-Israel rhetoric and pro-Israel cooperation on the sly. By signing peace treaties, they’re making a very public commitment.

If more peace treaties are signed—and it’s an even bet that some will—pro-Israel and anti-Iran political alliances become clearer. It will surely enhance trade and cooperation among all signatories, but will also publicly polarize the region.

But ultimately, such polarization doesn’t matter. Iran has and will continue to lead the anti-Israel forces. Tehran, however, may be forced to up its game.

Forcing the Hand of Iran, Russia, and Turkey?

Does that mean that Iran will lean more heavily than before on its nefarious allies, Russia and Turkey?

Or that Russian and Turkey will be able to get more leverage out of Iran?

Both are quite likely.

In the short run, Russia is after control of Syrian oil fields. In the longer run, they also want control of Israel’s Leviathan oil and natural gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. So, too, does Turkey.

Turkey is already threatening to halt Israel’s planned pipeline through Cyprus and Greece, and Russia knows that Israeli natural gas exports to Western Europe, undercutting Russian prices, would virtually bankrupt Russia more than it already is.

Still, even as it prepares for war in a region full of hostile enemies, a wise nation makes peace where it can, if the terms are right.

Israel must do no less.

James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.