The Abrahamic Accord: Will It Bring Peace or Perpetuate Pain in Palestine?

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Opinion

SINGAPORE, August 24, 2020 (IPS) – There isn’t much good news for President Donald Trump of the United States these days. If the election polls hold any credibility, he faces almost certain defeat in the November election. So when Abraham’s so-called Agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was sealed in a phone call between him and the leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, signaling a silver lining in the dark clouds that otherwise hovered over him, Trump was elated. A Trump twitter called it a “HUGE breakthrough among ‘three BIG friends!’

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

How realistic was this statement? Not a lot. The deal only formalized what had actually been going on for years between Israel and the United Arab Emirates under the table, out of the public eye, but not out of public knowledge. So why this far-reaching uproar fanfare? The timing was important. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were negotiating an “outside-in” strategy to resolve this “fundamental” Palestinian crisis in the Middle East. This involved the strategy of moving the Arabs away from the “center”, ie Palestine, in order to create greater pressure on the Palestinians already under siege. The pillar of the deal was that the West Bank would not be annexed. But the pillar began to collapse immediately when the Israelis let the cat out of the bag. Israel said the decision to annex is still on the agenda, but only temporarily suspended at the request of the United States so that the agreement can be signed. It seemed a pretty crude deal to the Palestinians, those most affected by the deal, but with no way to influence it.

The first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country was that signed in March 1979 between Cairo and Tel Aviv in 1979, for which Egyptian President Anwar Saadat paid with his life. The second was between Israel and Jordan in 1994. But these were between Israel and two of its border states with which there was a history of wars. The UAE shared no borders and had no military conflict with Israel. This agreement violated a principle of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) that the Arab states bordering (or frontline) of Israel could advance their interests vis-à-vis Israel in the way they chose because for them the question was existential. Distant OIC members would continue their non-recognition of Israel in favor of the Palestinian cause. The United Arab Emirates was the third Arab country to enter into such an agreement with Israel, and the first in the Gulf. This indicated that the pro-Israel powers had succeeded in brushing aside the support of Palestinians from other Arab countries.

Generally speaking, the Abraham Accord agreed to the complete normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, including the exchange of ambassadors. In addition, it would be followed by agreements on investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications and other matters. Then there was this risky provision on Israel’s annexation of the West Bank which was already falling apart. A massively large concession was made to Israel by an OIC Arab state without any tangible benefit to the Palestinians. But then, why? Some analysts believe the idea was to give Trump a feather in his cap, where there was none, by his Israeli and Emirati friends. If that was why the Accord was a sacrifice of crucial Palestinian interests for a very marginal benefit, even for Trump, then the US elections will be conducted primarily on domestic issues. Foreign affairs will be of little importance, and the Middle East, none at all.

Some believe the UAE would not have taken this step without a nudge and a nod from Saudi Arabia. The two countries are not doing anything meaningful these days without consulting each other. Their heir princes, who direct the shootings in the two capitals, are the best friends. While an open Saudi peace treaty with Israel is unlikely to be imminent as the cost of its reputation as guardian of two of Islam’s holiest shrines would take a big hit, their other Arab friends such as Bahrain and Oman may well be in the queue.

What was the global reaction to this event? The UN and its Secretary General Antonio Guterres, barely able, on the one hand, to overshadow the White House, its provider of financial means, and on the other hand, to oppose any peace treaty where whatever, have cleverly linked “normalization” to the hope of a two-state settlement of the Palestinian question. But Abu Dhabi surely realized that the United States was too divided to satisfy all parties, when Trump’s rival Joe Biden, unable to offend Israel and at the same time unwilling to give it any credit, mainly focused on the key issue of annexation. He said: “Annexation would be a blow to the cause of peace, which is why I oppose it now and I will oppose it as president.”

Much of the rest of the OIC, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, opposed it. Abbas outright denounced the deal. Famous Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrafi called it a “clearance sale by friends”. Rejecting the Accord, Hamas saw it as serving the “Zionist narrative.” Iran, a sworn enemy of Arab monarchies and sheikhs (with the exception of Qatar – these are the intricacies of intricate intramural policies in the Middle East), called UAE action “strategic stupidity “and likened it to” stabbing the Palestinians in the back. “An equally livid Turkey has declared that” history will not forget and never forgive the hypocritical behavior of the UAE. ” East, near my perch in Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, officials have so far remained silent, although former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir has called the deal a “step backwards for peace” , and warned that it would “divide the Muslim world into warring factions”, with the Israelis adding “fuel to the fire”.

In South Asia, Pakistan, poor but powerful, had to be and was more discreet. Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose voice carries weight in the OIC but whose stock market might be light without Saudi and Emirati support, did not speak as in writing, but the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad issued a carefully crafted and calibrated statement. He said the agreement “has far-reaching implications” and that “Pakistan has a steadfast commitment to the full realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination”, obviously keeping in mind the mind the Kashmiris. He added that “Pakistan’s approach will be guided by our assessment of how the rights and aspirations of Palestinians are being respected, and how regional peace, security and stability are preserved.” Like motherhood, no one could dispute this line of sentiment.

In the meantime, the average Palestinian must ask himself whether, for him, the Abrahamic Accord, the day after the feast of Eid-ul-Adha, would turn into an Abrahamic sacrifice!

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is Principal Investigator at the Institute of South Asia Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is a former Foreign Adviser (Minister of Foreign Affairs) of Bangladesh and Chairman of the Cosmos Foundation Bangladesh. The opinions expressed in the article are his own. He can be reached at: isasiac @ nus.edu.sg

This story was originally posted by Dhaka Courier.

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