U.A.E. Opposition Establishes Anti-Normalization Group Against Israel

Two weeks ago, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), brokered a deal intended to foster future cooperation in areas such as energy production and water use, in addition to finding a viable COVID vaccine, reports the BBC. Termed the “Abraham accord,” this deal will establish full diplomatic relations between the two countries and facilitate the exchange of embassies as well as a resumption of normal trade. According to Al-Jazeera, Israel and U.A.E. have engaged in years of “discrete contacts,” but this is the first formal agreement reached in decades. The Abraham accord will make U.A.E. the third Arab nation, following the example of both Egypt and Jordan, to participate in normal diplomatic relations with Israel, writes the New York Times. 

The U.A.E., Israel, and the United States have all expressed confidence in this new development and optimism for the future of the region. According to the BBC, President Trump called the accord a “breakthrough toward peace” and a “truly historic moment.” Yousef Al Otaiba, U.A.E. ambassador to the U.S., echoed this same sentiment, lauding the deal as a “win for diplomacy and the region.” However, the Abraham accord raises questions about Israel’s controversial plans to annex parts of the West Bank and strategic Jordan Valley. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that there is “no change in my plan to apply our sovereignty to Judea and Samaria [West Bank] in full coordination with the U.S. I’m committed to it.” The Prime Minister’s language is in tension with statements from the United States that indicate Israel’s willingness to halt annexation, potentially sowing the seeds of conflict. 

Palestinian authorities and liberation groups roundly condemned the bilateral deal as a continued denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas labelled the accord a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause.” Al-Aqsa is a mosque in Jerusalem that U.A.E. citizens will be allowed to visit after relations between the two countries are fully normalized. Furthermore, Hamas’s spokesman, Hazem Qassem said in a statment that the accord “serves the Zionist narrative.” Though at odds with the Palestinians, Jewish settler groups, expecting the swift annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, have also objected to the deal. These groups argue that either a delay or halt to annexation could place them in a precarious position. It is clear that the Abraham accord, though a move toward peace, has aggravated latent tensions in the Middle East.

Moreover, some U.A.E. dissidents reacted strongly to the Abraham accord and have become increasingly outspoken. These dissidents maintain that a normalization of relations with Israel “legitimizes Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.” Thus, Jerusalem Post reports, Saeed Nasser al-Taniji, Saeed Khadim bin Touq al-Mari, Ahmad al-Shaybah, Hamid Abdullah al-Nuaymi, Hamad Mohammed al-Shamesi, and Ibrahim Mahamoud Al-e Haram founded the U.A.E. Resistance Union Against Normalization. This group claims that the people of U.A.E. reject the Abraham accord, echoing the anger from Palestinian groups as well as condemnation from Iran and Turkey. It is unclear whether an earlier iteration of this same resistance group was in operation between the years 2000 and 2011. Though there is little information available, the International Quran News Agency reports that the U.A.E. Resistance Union Against Normalization commits itself to the cause of the Palestinian people, opposes any diplomacy with Israel, and seeks to “raise awareness about the dangers of normalization of ties with Israel.” 

As of yet, it is unclear how the Abraham accord will impact international affairs in the Middle East. Though intended as a peaceful measure, it has generated turbulence across the region. According to the International Quran News Agency, the first business deal since the accord has been signed by U.A.E. and Israel, involving Emirati APEX National Investment company and Israel’s Tera Group, in an effort to produce a COVID-19 testing device and further research. It is possible that the Abraham accord heralds a future of cooperation between Israel and the Arab world but, just as likely, it may also spell conflict over the West Bank and Jordan Valley.