Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 - 6 of Tishri, 5781

Israeli leading Middle East expert expects several other countries to follow in the footsteps of the UAE-Bahrein-Israel agreements

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Some 700 guests are invited to Tuesday’s White House signing ceremony marking Israel’s normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.

A leading expert on Middle Eastern affairs, Ehud Yaari, commentator for Israel’s Channel two television,  expects several other countries to go in the footsteps of the normalization agreements between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrein with Israel that are set to be signed Tuesday during a ceremony at the White House in Washington.  

‘’There are several countries that are seriously contemplating similar steps and if not full normalization by taking gradual steps towards Israel,’’ he told an online briefing for journalists organized by Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA).

‘’We have the Omanis, with a new Sultan. they will move. Not sure how soon. Maybe gradually but they are coming. The second is Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are very dynamic these days, not always for the better. They are slower but they intend to move. The opening of the airspace (for Israeli flights) is an important step. Third country which may be the first to move is Sudan. The president and his deputy would like to move. But the civilian government doesn’t want to do it but it is discussed whether Israeli planes will be welcome to Sudan to help the victims of the Nile floods. The last country is Morocco. We have decades of very good cooperation with Morocco. Israeli tourists go often to Morocco. And the idea is regularly mentioned of direct flights between Tel Aviv and Casablanca or Marrakech. The Moroccans are moving slow because of the tension between them and the UAE. The UAE is criticizing King of Morocco Mohammed VI for having a sort of Morrocan version of the Muslim Brotherhood as the head of the government. Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed doesn’t like that. The Moroccans are waiting to see which way the Saudis will go.’’

Relations between Israel and the Gulf states started already in 1978 under the auspices of then President Sadat of Egypt, Yaari said. ‘’What is important to mention is that we are now in an era of decline of political Arabism. Arab states are disintegrated, getting fragmented, not to be fixed very quickly, none of them. The sense of national Arab solidarity is fading. The Arab League these days is called ‘the garage’.’’

He noted that the Palestinians were unable to get a condemnation of the UAE and Bahrein by the Arab League or the organisation of Islamic countries. ‘’The Palestinian issue from the perspective of the Arabs is still very sensitive, very important, very symbolic, a slogan, but it is no more part of their agenda.’’

‘’I invite all of you to read in  Arabic or in translation the op-eds in Saudi Arabia calling the Palestinian leadership ‘’a gang of thieves’’.

‘’There is in many cases almost anti-Palestinian sentiment. And what is important practically is that the Gulf states tell the Palestinians : ‘Hey guys, you no longer have veto power over our relations with Israel. We do business with Israel. We have a common enemy, Iran, and we both want to make sure that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t take over Egypt again or Yemen or Libya. We are all interested in blocking (Turkish President) Erdogan advances through the area. The wise Arabs will negotiate with Israel and ultimately it will benefit the Palestinians as well.’’

Yaari also pointed out to the timing of the UAE-Israel agreement. ‘’I think from Mohammed Ben Zayed point of view there was both a danger and something he perceived as an opportunity. The danger is Joe Biden for him and for the Saudis as well. He wanted to buy an ‘insurance policy’ against a change of U.S. administration. The opportunity was that (Israeli Prime Minister) Bibi Netanyahu was talking of annexation of part of the West Bank and for MBZ this was the opportunity to present his normalization agreement with Israel as a success in removing, at least for a few years, the Israeli plan for annexation.’’

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