Shu Meng: Will UAE-Israeli Peace Agreement Benefit the Palestinian Problem?
Publish time: 2020-08-21 Browsing times: 10

MESI assistant researcher Shu Meng published an op-ed article on Express on August 21, 2020, the full text is as follows:


Will UAE-Israeli Peace Agreement Benefit the Palestinian Problem?

On August 13th, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel announced the Abraham Agreement, formally announcing the normalization of relations between the two countries, and they will reach cooperation in economic, trade, medical, and technological fields. It means that the UAE will become the first Gulf Arab country and the third Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Israel has been relatively isolated throughout the Middle East since its founding in 1948, and it has been subjected to collective boycotts from countries within the region. Previously, among Arab countries, only Egypt and Jordan had established diplomatic relations with it. As a Jews country, Israel has been in contact with some Arab countries and by this chance, it hopes to use the UAE as a breakthrough point to ease relations with Arab countries.
Due to the Palestine problem, Israel and Arab countries have been in hostile since 1950s, therefore, after the UAE and Israel signed a peace agreement, it is expected that this agreement could bring opportunities to the Palestine issue. Is this possible? Probably not.
Viewing from the driving force of the signing of the peaceful agreement, it is driven by practical interests between the two countries. This cooperation was promoted by US President Trump. Using Israel and Arab countries’ grievances with Iran to form alliance to exert extreme pressure on Iran is the Trump administration’s usual method. The UAE needs to win over Israel to contain Iran, which is a geological danger to the both. The emphasis of the peace agreement is not on peaceful dialogue, but on their joint opposition to Iran.
Viewing from the effectiveness of cooperation, this cooperation is unlikely to bring about demonstration effects which the Palestine side worries about. Given the geopolitical influence of the UAE, the demonstration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel is of limited significance. Moreover, despite the improvement of government-level relations between the UAE and Israel, the public opinion foundation for cooperation between the two sides is still relatively weak.
Therefore, the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel is not a turning point for peace in the Middle East, nor will it bring significant progress to the Palestinian issue. And on the Palestinian issue which has been plaguing the regional peace in the Middle East, several key factors have remained unchanged in spite of the peace agreements:
First of all, the hard-line stance of the Israeli right-wing forces remains unchanged. According to a UAE-Israeli-UStripartite statement, Israel will suspend the annexation of the West Bank while Israel and the UAE normalize relations. However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu also emphasized that the plan to exercise sovereignty over the West Bank has not changed. The Israeli right-wing forces represented by Netanyahu cannot fundamentally change their hard-line stance towards Palestine, no matter how many agreements are signed with Arab countries.
Secondly, the Arab world’s long-term neglect of the Palestinian issue remains unchanged. The Palestinian side believes that such a peace agreement is a betrayal, but in fact, Arab countries have long ignored the Palestinian issue. In recent years, contradictions and divisions within the Arab world have become more prominent, and turbulence in the region has continued. Coupled with the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring”, the Arab countries in transition fear the affect of the regional turbulence externally, and be restricted by problems of reform and development internally. Under such circumstances, Arab countries’ support to the Palestine has been more in words than in deeds.
In fact, regardless of whether Israel and the UAE have reached a peace agreement, it is increasingly difficult to resolve the Palestinian issue. After the signing of the peace agreement, Palestine decided to immediately recall its ambassador to the UAE to protest against the UAE and Israel, but this had almost no impact on the situation and the two countries involved.
During the signing of this agreement, the US, the UAE and Israel all benefited from it. For the US, the UAE-Israeli peace agreement will help improve Trump’s unfavorable situation in the domestic election. For the UAE, closer relations with Israel will allow the two countries to jointly respond to the threat from Iran. For Israel, the new Arab partners will help Israel improve the isolated environment in its region. However, the beneficiaries never include Palestine and the Palestine issue that has been unresolved for so many years.