Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
The recent announcement of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel proves that the Arab-Israeli conflict, simmering since 1948, has never been about differences in religion, or ethnic hatreds. The conflict has always been about land rights and human rights. The Israelis got the land and human rights, and the Palestinians got neither.
There is no benefit for the UAE from this deal. Israel benefits from the deal as a public relations stunt, which plays well to its audience in the US Congress. US President Trump benefits the most from the deal, which his son in law Jared Kushner worked to put together, as Trump’s November reelection chances are in peril. Middle East experts have rumored that before the US presidential election more Arab nations may follow the UAE lead, and in fact, Bahrain announced yesterday their intention to forge an open relationship with the occupiers of Palestine. Oman, Morocco, Sudan, and perhaps Qatar maybe soon announcing their break-through agreements with Israel, in time to sway the election results.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has achieved a ‘peace-deal’ with some Arabs without giving up the brutal military occupation of Palestine, which holds five million Christians and Muslims in an open-air prison devoid of human rights.
The Emirati citizens are said to be supportive of the new agreement between their ruler and the Israeli government. The Emiratis traditionally do not give the Palestinian cause political, or religious priority. Their general apathy towards the injustice in Palestine is rooted in the Gulf media, which has portrayed Iran, and the Shia sect as the enemy, not Israel. This media ‘re-education’ of the population began in the 1980s after the Iranian revolution, which removed the Shah of Iran, who was a Shia, but an ally of the US, Saudi Arabia, and its neighbors.
The UAE is a monarchy made up of seven hereditary Sheikhs, who are absolute monarchs. The Emirates consists of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain.
Even if there are opponents to the agreement in the UAE, you may never hear of them because the UAE outlawed online mockery, and critical comments of its government, and attempts to organize public protests through using social media after the protests of November 2012 in neighboring Bahrain. The UAE is ranked as “Not Free” in various reports on global civil and political rights, and press freedom index.
Since 2013, Emirati activists have been held in secret detention centers, while subjected to torture, and even the act of tweeting can land you 10 months in jail. According to sources, more than 4,000 Shia have been deported under sectarian discrimination.
The US maintains three military bases in the UAE, and the UAE and the US have been actively involved in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.
Ephraim Levy, former Mossad chief, told an Israeli media, “The relationship between Israel and the Persian Gulf countries is not new, but was built over the last 50 years. I traveled to Bahrain 20 years ago and met with their King.”
The highest-level meeting between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel occurred in 1995. The Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Bassiouni, arranged a meeting at his home in Israel between Prince Salman, now King of Saudi Arabia, Yitzhak Rabin, and his wife, Bassiouni and his wife, and a Palestinian journalist, according to Al Mayadeen news media.
The Global Council for Tolerance and Peace, of the UAE, said the agreement is a testament to the “bold diplomatic and sound vision of the UAE leadership in making this diplomatic breakthrough through which Israel will stop the annexation of Palestinian lands under the Trump Peace Plan.”
However, Netanyahu said that his promise to annex the West Bank settlements is not over but only delayed. He promised he would declare the settlements as part of Israel as soon as he had US support. The UN and the US Congress consider the West Bank settlements as illegal, and a land-grab which should be part of the future Palestinian state, when the 1967 boundaries are restored. West Bank settlers, squatting illegally on Palestinian land, are Jewish extremists, well-armed militants, and most are US-born American citizens.
“The secretary-general (hopes) it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realize a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law, and bilateral agreements,” said the spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, called the agreement “a huge win” for President Donald Trump and the world while adding the need “to stand firm against a regime that is the number one state sponsor of terrorism – Iran”.
The US could build on the Israel-UAE agreement to restore US leadership toward a two-state peace deal that fulfills Palestinians rights to dignity and freedom in their own nation, which remains in the US interest. Under strong American diplomatic leadership, Israelis and Palestinians could negotiate a just and lasting peace, fulfilling the UN resolution; however, the US diplomacy has been missing-in-action for years.
Israel has two official peace treaties with Arab states. The first with Egypt in 1979, and the second with Jordan in 1994. Peace has held for 41 years, proving that Arabs and Jews can live side-by-side and that the conflict is not rooted in religious or ethnic differences, but is a land dispute which demands justice for Palestine. There is no defense of occupation.