Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A New Partnership With The U.A.E.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced an accord between the U.A.E. and Israel. Building on their shared concerns over Iran, the two countries reached a deal to normalize relations as Israel committed to suspending its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. In the next several weeks, U.A.E. officials will meet with their Israeli counterparts to sign bilateral deals on different matters, making the U.A.E. the first Gulf Arab country to ever have diplomatic relations with Israel.


Palestinian leaders reacted with surprise and rejected the deal by accusing the U.A.E. of “treason,” as reported by a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Ambassador in the Emirates was also being recalled while an emergency Arab League meeting was demanded by Palestine. On a similar note, Iran and Turkey have accused the U.A.E. of abandoning the Palestinians, despite the latter having had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades. On the other hand, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauded the news saying that it was his “profound hope that the annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank” and this agreement “to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.” The Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi also commended the accords while Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi shared his hopes for a push ahead for the stalled peace negotiations.


Since the creation of the Jewish state, relationships between it and the Arab countries have been conflictual to the point of war on different occasions, from the 1973 Yom Kippur War to more recent 2006 Second Lebanon war to name a few. However, over the decades Egypt and Jordan have normalized their ties with Israel becoming its first “allies” in the Arab world. Despite this, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., the leaders of the Gulf countries, continued their support for the Palestinian cause and never had formal relationships with Israel. For these reasons, this week’s accord is actually historic as U.S. President Donald Trump stated. The U.A.E. and Israel will now formally work together on investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas.


As the world both welcomed and condemned this unexpected announcement, it is important to consider what this means for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although this new partnership might give the U.A.E. and the Gulf Arab countries more leverage on the conflict, it is unclear how this could happen with the Palestinians’ best interests at heart. There are numerous grey areas that will have to be addressed in the coming months to understand how this historic agreement can potentially benefit the stability of the region without penalising the Palestinian people even further. Indeed, Israel only agreed to delaying the annexation of the occupied West Bank, but there is no guarantee on how long this commitment will be respected. Thus, long-term there is still uncertainty on how to move the peace process forward.


Palestine relies on international support and influence from countries such as the U.A.E. for its survival which makes their frustration and confusion legitimate and worthy of being addressed. At the same time, this accord has been an appreciable act of international cooperation and diplomacy that should not be downplayed. Still, we should all pay attention to the steps taken moving forward as the Palestinian people continue to be subjected to occupation.