The Peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is a groundbreaking move and a tremendous achievement for the future of the Middle East. While Israel is the strongest country in the entire region, the UAE is the richest state in the Arab world and one of the most important and influential nations in the Middle East. Being an opening for a new era in this tough area of the world, this peace agreement may lead to further accords between Israel and other Arab countries, including Bahrain, Oman and even Saudi Arabia, all seek to follow the path of reconciliation with the Jewish State.
Despite the notion that in politics everything is planned in advance to the last detail, the truth is that it is an arena of opportunities. The art in politics is to know how to seize the opportunity when it occurs along the way, and this is the reason why Netanyahu is the cleverest politician in Israel. There is no doubt that Netanyahu wished to implement his annexation plan over the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs, which constitute 30% of the West Bank. However, due to a rough opposition to this move from both his Blue and White partners in the Israeli unity government, and the international community, led the Trump administration to start doubting whether this is the ripe moment for an Israeli annexation. Hence, the Israeli prime minister needed to change his course. Yet in order to take the annexation plan off the table, Netanyahu had to receive something in return, an alternative that would please the Israeli public opinion, and what can be a better option than a peace agreement with an Arab country.
In essence, Israel-UAE peace agreement impacts both the Israeli political arena and Israeli Palestinian Conflict.
First, Netanyahu’s political doctrine, which claims that Israel must negotiate out of political strength without agreeing to substantial concessions to the Palestinians that endanger Israel, has finally borne fruit. Since he was reelected in 2009, Netanyahu has asserted that in the Middle East, countries sign peace agreements with the strong, not with the weak. Thus, according to Netanyahu, only if Israel will be a strong country, both militarily and economically, the Arab countries will seek peace with it, even if an Israeli Palestinian peace agreement has not been reached. In this context, the Israeli public has been accustomed for many years that only if Israel had capitulated to the Palestinians demands, only then there would be normalization between Israel and the Arab world. In practice, reality proves otherwise and that the path to settlement with the Palestinians goes through normalization with the moderate Arab states and not the other way around. Eventually, the upcoming pact between Israel and the UAE proves that the old paradigm, in which a normalization between the Arab World and Israel would only occur if Israel had made concessions for the Palestinians, belongs to the past, and that Netanyahu’s doctrine has won. This is a profound perceptual change that Netanyahu has led as prime minister since 2009, a process that will surely affect both Israeli decision-making and the Israeli public in the near future. Politically, the agreement with the UAE has the potential to ameliorate Netanyahu’s political status, who since July has lost about ten seats in polls, mainly in favor of his rival Naftali Bennett. Thus, Netanyahu’s public standing will probably be strengthened, mainly at the expense of Ganz and Ashkenazi whose Blue and White party may shrink even further.
Second, Israel-UAE normalization poses a warning call for the Palestinians. Since the Oslo Accords period, the Palestinian leadership has always argued that Israel’s normalization with the Arab world goes through an agreement with them. However, the imminent peace deal illustrates that this taboo has just been broken. Not only has the UAE, and hopefully more Arab and Muslim countries soon, decided in favor of normalization with Israel without any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, it appears that the former has managed to stop the Israeli annexation move in the West Bank. Thus, despite the Palestinian leadership’s attempt to portray the UAE’s move as a betrayal, many in the Arab world, who have already fed up with the Palestinians and their constant refusal to reach a historic compromise with Israel, view the UAE as the guardian of the Palestinian interests in the West Bank, even more than the Palestinian leadership itself.
Even worse for the PA and Hamas, there is a possibility that this upcoming agreement may lead to major changes in the Palestinian leadership, especially if the latter will decide not to jump on the peace bandwagon with Israel. In that sense, it is not inconceivable that the Palestinian People, who observes how other Arab and Muslim states prefer to follow the path of normalization with Israel, would wish to see a change in the Palestinian leadership. Thus, instead of a leadership that continues not to miss an opportunity to miss every opportunity, the Palestinians will strive for leaders who prefer to reach a historic compromise with Israel, one that would bring peace, economic prosperity, and security to the entire region.
In conclusion, the peace between Israel and the UAE is a historic event, which constitutes a victory for Netanyahu and a warning call for the Palestinians. If the Palestinian leadership will continue to hold their constant refusal to any compromise with Israel, they will place themselves as part of the Iran-led axis alongside Syria and Hezbollah, a camp advocating the suppression of civil rights and the spread of terrorism around the world. The Palestinians have the opportunity to join the era of normalization and peace with Israel. Let’s hope that they will choose to be on the right side of history this time.