Normalising relations with Israel could have dire consequences for the Gulf states. Creating a strategic partnership with the Israeli government provides one means of building a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia. The New Coalition in the Middle East is an attempt by US President Donald Trump to end the so-called old Arab-Israeli conflict in the region utilising this strategic partnership strategy. However, this will reflect a peace resolved the way the US and Israel want and is not an illustration of how justice is sought.
Recent efforts on the part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to declare readiness to normalise relations with Israel, subsequently followed by Bahrain , Sudan, and Morocco’s accession to this reconciliation process, are the continuation of the Century Deal. This policy will be considered a relic of the Trump administration’s involvement in Israel.
The consequences of normalisation can be examined in several ways. At the regional level, Israel has sought compromise and influence in some Arab countries due to the lack of strategic depth in relations and knowledge of the resistance axis’s successive breakdowns, especially in the last decade. This is wrought in historical precedent, dating back to when Egypt, in the period of President Anwar al-Sadat, laid the first cornerstone of compromise and communication with Tel Aviv. As a result, most Arab countries lost the ability to resist Israel and retake the occupied territories.
Establishing closer proximity to Israel could have severe consequences for the Arab countries in the region, especially in public opinion. Particularly in the UAE and Bahrain, citizens protest their governments’ policies in betraying the Palestinian cause and aligning themselves with Washington and Tel Aviv. Therefore, any haste in recognising Israel’s occupation policies would create a further rift between the compromising Arab states and their peoples. Besides, turning the UAE and Bahrain into Israel’s backyard and infiltrating these regimes can challenge their national security, because Israel’s intelligence and political influence in these Arab countries are more in the interests of Tel Aviv.
If the relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel are formally established, this could lead to political and economic shocks in the whole region and increase the possibility of conflict and war in the area more than before. The normalisation of relations between some Arab countries and Israel is pursued to create general legitimacy for Israel in the Middle East. This is the issue that led the United States president to initiate the Treaty of the Century. However, some countries in the Persian Gulf, like others in the region, have not treated Israel’s normalization in this way and still believe in Palestine and the West Bank’s Israeli occupation.
In opposition to the normalisation of relations with Israel, Kuwait has explicitly stated that it will follow the late emir’s policies in all cases, including the Palestinian issue. Sheikh Nawaf Ahmad Jaber Sabah, the new emir of Kuwait, has announced that his country will remain loyal to the legacy of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah’s gift in support of the Palestinian cause and will take steps in line with his policies. But on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, the UAE and Bahrain have announced their readiness to normalise relations with Israel. Arab states willing to compromise, such as the UAE, first stated that their motivation to normalise relations with Israel was to support the Palestinians and prevent projects such as the West Bank’s annexation. However, the issue of Palestine seems to have slipped away from their priorities.
With such differences over Palestine, the question arises as to whether this will lead to the escalation of old rifts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In this regard, it should be noted that this political difference between the Persian Gulf countries has existed and still exists, but it cannot be considered a deep rift between these countries. It seems that the unity and consensus on Palestine have almost disappeared.
While due mostly to external pressures, especially from the United States, the GCC countries will not confront each other over the normalisation of relations with Israel and the overshadowing of the Palestinian issue.
In conclusion, there is a possibility of widespread anger in the Arab countries against the normalisation of their governments with Israel to the point of civil war. While the compromising Arab regimes are trying to achieve feasible and short-term gains from the agreement with Israel, they will most likely see the collapse of their pillars in the not-too-distant future. By losing national and popular trust for short-term interests, they will exacerbate the problems of the Arab world and obscure the existence and stability of the Arab League. In a word, the scenario of normalisation of relations with Israel has been designed and carried out step by step by the supra-regional powers. If this plan succeeds, it will lead to the defeat of GCC countries in the Persian Gulf and the disintegration of the Arab League.
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About the author:
Amin BAGHERI is an Iranian research fellow at the International Studies Association in Tehran, Iran. His primary research interest lies in international relations, political science, and conflicts in the Middle East. You can see more of his work on Twitter @bghr_amin.