The importance of the normalization agreement expected to be signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates should not be understated.
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Twenty-six years after signing a peace agreement with Jordan and more than 40 years after the peace agreement with Egypt, another Arab country joins those ranks, and there is hope that others will follow. A sign of this can be found in remarks by Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia is an “inevitability.”
Opinions attempting to downplay the importance of the agreement have already begun to be voiced here. Among other things, they say there’s nothing new about the agreement, that the UAE is not an enemy country threatening Israel and the agreement with it does not resemble a treaty with an enemy country; that the agreement is nothing more than a political maneuver cooked up by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to elevate his political status. These claims miss the fact that the UAE has agreed to make its secret ties with Israel formal and public, and this bolsters the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and puts a stamp of approval on other such treaties.
UAE ruler Mohammed bin Zayed, is not a member of the Likud Central Committee, and he owes Netanyahu nothing. In his country, voices have long been heard encouraging diplomatic ties with Israel as part of a comprehensive strategy that seeks to place the UAE among the countries with influence in the Middle East and beyond. And by means of this agreement, bin Zayed has created an important precedent, one that obligates Israel to step back from the idea of annexation. Thus he has succeeded more than his counterparts in Egypt, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, and King Abdullah of Jordan.
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The agreement was not meant to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The basic stipulation it contains – either annexation or peace with the UAE – does not present a road map or timetable to advance the diplomatic process. But Netanyahu, who sees in the agreement only business opportunities, must not regard it as an exemption from dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.
Because beyond blocking the annexation, the agreement contains a promise and a warning regarding the implementation of Trump’s peace plan. Israel, despite its political upheavals and without reference to the date of a possible new election, must now propose a suitable return in exchange for the diplomatic grant it received, and renew negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, or at least present a realistic diplomatic plan. The situation in Gaza, where violent border clashes have been renewed, the lack of cooperation with the PA, and the severe economic crisis in both regions of Palestine will not change as a result of the plans Israelis have for shopping sprees in Dubai.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.