In light of the historic breakthrough of normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in late summer, as brokered by the U.S., it is a fitting time to show how the Arab League may be on its last legs. Many years were marred by inconsistencies and contradictions with the Arab League’s haphazard approach to achieving unification, leaving much of the rest of the world often mistrustful as to the motivations and intentions of the organization. Thus, this opening peace salvo by the participants of the Sept. 15 signing of the Abraham Accords at The White House should be viewed as a welcoming feat — most D.C. insiders did not think possible.
“We are having two pieces of good news in one token. On the one hand, Netanyahu decided – or agreed – to suspend the annexation of the West Bank … and yet we are having normalization with the Emirates,” former Israeli Foreign Minister and opposition leader Tzipi Livni told Christiane Amanpour on Aug. 13. “For many years, we had discreet relations with them. I think this sends very good news to the region.”
The Arab League is comprised of twenty-two Arab states. Like any intergovernmental organization, its mission has long been to seek consensus in an effort to achieve unity. This has proven to be virtually impossible to accomplish — dating back to 1945 when the Alexandria Protocol was signed by some Arab states, most of whom were achieving independence. Over the ensuing years, however, the Arab states’ self-interest began to trump collective security needs. There grew a confluence of competing agendas, including hostility between various monarchies.
Israel and the Gulf states surely abide by the Mideast maxim that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ — and in this case, Iran is their unifying foe. For a region so often rife with political heartache – though also capturing truly inspired moments – Israel’s opening with the Gulf states deserves to be lauded, even by those who harbor great derision for the countries’ leaders. It is notable, too, that the Arab League voted to refuse to condemn the signing of the Abraham Accords.
The normalization of UAE-Israel relations also serves as the perfect antidote to sad chapters of the still intransigent Arab-Israeli conflict. Take for instance, the construct of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which while marginalized today, still maintains its terror cells in the West Bank. The Arab Nationalist Movement collapsed in the late 1960s — only for the formations of more radical groups, like the PFLP, and other splintering Palestinian factions, to wreck havoc on Israeli civilians. The huge ‘setback’ of the Six-Day War in early June 1967, in which Israel decimated its Arab neighbors, structurally reshaped the boundaries of the Middle East. Even still, the PFLP, led by George Habash, committed heinous terror attacks against Israel in the ensuing decades.
To those who study Mideast geopolitics, Israel’s normalization with the Gulf states will be seen as a strong wall to thwart Iran’s hegemonic aspirations. That is why this glimmer of hope should indeed be recognized positively, and credit ought to be given by the involved players. It is also a good time to look into the overall construct of the Arab League as its conception’s ideals have long fallen by the wayside. This new unified front by Israel and the Gulf states can also serve as a potent response to the still-existing threats posed by terror organizations, like the PFLP in the West Bank, and many Iran-financed proxy groups lurking in Gaza and throughout the Middle East.