Israel’s ‘New Normalization’ Policy with Arab Countries: Whether it is in the Stage of Honeymoon or Sustainable Peace -Nurefsan Aricam and Nazmül Islam

Middle East

The US has recently made efforts to reconcile Israel and Arab countries. Israel’s process of normalizing relations with Arab countries was limited to Egypt and Jordan in 42 years. Most of the administrations remained unresponsive to the recent normalization movements. On the other hand, the public showed strong reactions to the continuation of the normalization process and the participation of some countries in this process (Karabacak, 2020). As a result, Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco regimes accepted the normalization with Israel.

US President Donald Trump said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates held a meeting and agreed on the full normalization of bilateral relations. Under the agreement, it was announced that Israel suspended its plans to annex some areas in the West Bank. UAE Crown Prince Mohammed also made a statement on the subject on his Twitter account. “In our telephone conversation with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached that Israel would stop annexing Palestinian territories. The UAE and Israel also agreed to set a roadmap for cooperation and building bilateral relations,” said Prince Mohammed. (BBC NEWS, 2020)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful that some Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will reach an agreement to normalize relations with Israel (Intitute of Strategic Thinking, 2020). With the Ibrahim Agreement signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 13, 2020, a period in which the classical friend-enemy perceptions in the Middle East and the analyzes made on them changed, the long-term projection in the context of the agreement and the Gulf-Israel rapprochement It is understood that it is too early to be developed (ORSAM, 2020).

It was alleged that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not want to enter into an engagement on “normalization with Israel” in his secret meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and preferred to wait for the presidential elections in the USA, Joe Biden. According to the news reported by the Anadolu Agency (AA) The news, which pointed out that the Donald Trump administration wants to complete the “Abraham Agreements” process between Israel and Arab countries before the expiration of his mandate (Anadolu Agency, 2020).

Many Arab countries, especially the Gulf, could not resist Trump and the UAE’s pressures and entered the normalization process with Israel. Emphasizing that normalization means “an agreement of surrender” rather than a peace agreement, as Ahmed Uysal (2020) assessed that “normalization is the process of surrendering to Israel. The previously secret and timid cooperation was revealed. The Middle East project was designed by the Trump administration and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. This camp led by the UAE aims to prevent the democratization, independence and strengthening of the countries in the region from Syria to Yemen and Somalia” (Incekaya, 2020).

The UAE has been on the rise in recent years as both a military power and a holiday destination to trade. To strengthen these positions, the USA will help the UAE sell new advanced weapons after the agreement with Israel. Among them are F-35 fighter jets. The UAE uses its advanced weapons in Libya and Yemen. But he wants to be equipped against a potential threat from Iran, on the other side of the Gulf, which he sees as his worst enemy. Israel and the Trump administration share the UAE’s and Bahrain’s threat perception regarding Iran. Until 1969, Iran claimed that Bahrain was included in its territory. UAE and Bahrain were also in contact with Israel, now they will be able to do this openly, both in terms of security and trade (Bowen, 2020).

By seeing the Israel’s new normalization policy with Arab countries, espceially with eight Arab states highlights the interest of Israel in the region. The historical background of the Israel-Saudi Arabia relations are beyond the Israel’s self control. US President Donald Trump tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to normalize with Israel. Israel signed agreements to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates at a ceremony held in the White House on September 15 (Deveci, 2020). This political development ofcourse would touch some main dynamics of notably young generation and neighboring countries. From an arab security perspective these historical events effects the future of young generations staying in the country.

On the other hand, Israel-UAE as these two states signed a normalization agreement called as “Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel”. Netanyahu sharedthis agreement as “Historic day” on twitter account. The researchers claim that this agreement would mean a victory for the former president of USA Trump for guaranteeing the next elections. Also by making this historical deal Trump could boost to Netanyahu. The two partners are in dramatic drop because of not managing the pandemic crisis in their regions. According to the comments of the UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yoused Al Otaiba, the agreement mean a “a win for diplomacy and for the region” contiuning “It is a significant advance in Arab-Israeli relations that lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change” (BBC NEWS, 2020).

Though the interesting thing is ongoing in the case of Israel-Qatar recent relations such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar said upon the allegations that “Qatar agreed to normalize with Israel”, based on a US official, in some media outlets from the Arab media. “It is sad to see some misleading media campaigns that misrepresent Qatar’s position on the Palestinian issue and spoil its image,” the statement said. statement was included. In the statement, emphasizing that there is no change in Qatar’s stance on the Palestine issue, “We affirm our determined position in ending the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel and establishing the Palestinian State, whose capital is Jerusalem”, statement was included (Anadolu Agency, 2020). Also it is concluded by the Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani Qatar will normalise its relations with Israel if it commits to the Arab Peace Initiative (MEMO, 2021).

As a moderate Arab country, Oman appears to maintain a balanced position in the general Arab trend towards normalizing relations with Israel. Muscat’s positive response to the Abraham Accords is not a major change in strategy. Umman was one of three Arab League members who refused to take diplomatic action against Egypt following the 1979 Camp David peace accord. Unlike other Gulf Arab monarchies, Oman has always respected Egypt’s right to formalize its full-fledged relations with Israel (MEI, 2020).

In the case of Israel and Sudan current relations shows that they reached an agreement to normalize relations under American mediation. Senior American officials said that “the agreement announced today was reached in the phone call of US President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok. It is stated that the President of the Sudan Transition Council, Abdülfettah El Burhan, also attended the meeting. In the meeting it was also stated that relations between the two countries will primarily be based on strengthening cooperation in the fields of trade and agriculture”. During the negotiation process, making Sudan’s removal from the US terrorist list conditional on improving relations with Israel was an issue that Sudanese officials initially objected to. This issue also caused divisions within the country between both military and civilian leaders (VOA, 2020).

By looking at the Israel signed agreements to normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain at a ceremony held at the White House on September 15, with Trump’s mediation. Morocco will become the fourth Arab state to resume relations with Israel Trump, in a statement he made on October 23, stated that Sudan also reached an agreement to normalize its relations with Israel (Anadolu Agency, 2020). However, Hamas criticized the recent events between two states. And say that “We condemn the signing of the normalization agreement between Morocco and the [Israeli] occupation, and we consider it a great disappointment to the Palestinian people and their cause,” (Anadolu Agency, 2020).

It is well established that the Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan relations are quitely historical and old. As Egypt-Israel peace treaty was signed in 1973. Thus, Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize Israel (EURONEWS, 2020). Egypt is adopting a compromise solution in dealing with the Palestinian issue that combines both keeping a certain distance from the new frameworks for normalisation with Israel and reviving the traditional political settlement process based on international legality. In both cases, Cairo hopes to preserve a central role for itself in any future developments. Egypt is striving for Israeli steps in Palestine, at the same time trying to develop a new perspective of normalization with Israel. Egypt produces policies to reconstruct the political solution process. Either way, Cairo hopes to play a key player in future steps (The Arab Weekly, 2020).

While by seeing the Israel-Jordan recent relations, Jordan has been watching moves to normalize ties between Gulf states and Israel with concern as the Arab consensus has crumbled around conditioning the recognition of Israel to its withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the creation of a Palestinian state (Al-monitor, 2020). King Abdullah II of Jordan stated that constantly reminded the international community that they cannot talk about peace without a fair solution to the Palestinian problem, which protects the rights of the Palestinian people. Jordanian Prime Minister Omer er-Rezzaz Rezzaz stated that they are hoping for an international community that will fulfill its task of establishing a unified Arab stance and maintaining peace not only in the region but throughout the world. Rezzaz stated that King Abdullah II of Jordan constantly reminded the international community that they cannot speak of peace without a fair solution to the Palestinian problem, which protects the rights of the Palestinian people. Stating that Israel is making these threats under the conditions of the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, Rezzaz emphasized that Israel intends to take advantage of this situation by undertaking unilateral actions. (TRT, 2020)
The Potential Effect of Normalization to Surrounding Countries
Firstly, Turkey has close relations with Qatar. Turkey has established military bases in Qatar. The situation is different for Qatar. When Qatar comes to an agreement with Israel, it will make peace with Saudi Arabia and the Arab countries; it has been leading. Preparations in this direction have been spoken in diplomacy backstage for months. Secondly, with these moves, the US has further secured the security of its strategic partner, Israel. It further weakened the already weak Arab pressure on Israel. Thirdly, the countries led by Saudi Arabia have taken an important step in their own way, by pulling Israel to their side, against Iran, which they see as the primary threat. Fourthly, with normalization between Israel and Arab countries, anti-Turkey front in the region has made another attack. In the Arab world, Turkey and Iran opposition almost equalized contrast, opposition to Turkey in some Arab countries, Iran has passed the opposition. Fifthly, Israel-Arab relations will have severe repercussions in the struggle for energy resources and routes in Libya, Syria, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Both in Turkey and opportunity, the US will further increase the pressure on Iran. Sixthly, this rapprochement should be interpreted together with another rapprochement at the direction of the USA. That is the rapprochement between Barzani and the PKK terrorist organization in northern Iraq. The loyalty of both Barzani and the PKK terrorist organization to US imperialism and Israel is known (Doster, 2020). The following table and figure shows how Twitter stormed after Israel-UAE normalization agreement.

The following infographic developed by the Anadolu Agency (2020) highlights on the normalization process between Israel and some Arab countries accelerates in 2020:
Israel and the UAE have cooperated in cyber technology, defense, and security areas. However, as the recent remarks of Netanyahu after the agreement have shown, the normalization between the UAE and Israel could constitute a “hierarchical normalization” where Israel gets the upper hand in strategic matters due to its close ties with the US. Therefore, the UAE’s normalization with Israel could start a process of isolation for the UAE in the Arab world. Already there have been intense exchanges and strong reactions to the Emirati leadership for their way of normalization with Israel. It could be seen in the tweets and the countries’ strong statements on the normalization agreement. With the normalization agreement the UAE foreign policy course has irrevocably shifted to the anti-Iran axis. In this situation, feelings of insecurity in the UAE could grow faster, especially in the face of increasing attempts to isolate Iran regionally.

In the coming two decades, the trends outlined in this report will directly or indirectly threaten several of these pillars. Each of these threats, on its own, would challenge Israel’s security posture. Given current trajectories, there is a significant chance that several could materialize simultaneously. Many of these trends will be outside of Israel’s control, but others can be affected directly by Israeli action today. At the regional and domestic levels, actors on which Israel relies for security cooperation face deep, mounting challenges to their continued governance. Meanwhile, Iran and its proxies, the most important being Hezbollah in Lebanon, have solidified their regional positions. Both face uncertain domestic contexts, yet in both Iran and Lebanon internal instability need not empower actors any friendlier to Israel. Saudi Arabia, a crucial partner for Israel in bettering its regional relations, may be more unstable than appears at present.

Its future financial outlook is worrisome, and the success of social and economic reforms is far from guaranteed. Mohammed bin Salman’s toxic image in Washington, meanwhile, combined with America’s decreasing dependence on Saudi oil, has caused many Americans to question the utility of the U.S.-Saudi partnership in its current form. In Egypt, extreme repression has quelled dissent, but few of the underlying political and economic problems which fueled the uprisings of 2011 have been addressed. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was an enormous achievement for Israel’s security. Even if political upheaval in Israel did not threaten the treaty directly, it could empower hostile militant groups in the Sinai to strike Israel from Egyptian territory. Jordan has been among Israel’s most crucial regional partners in recent decades. Its monarchy faces mounting stressors — a young population, limited resources, and societal fissures — and uncertain continued support from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Should the United States and Israel continue to move to shape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms very unfavorable to the Palestinians, Jordan will also face increasing domestic pressure to change the status of its relationship with Israel. Even while threats from its neighborhood increase, Israel may find great power shifts in the Middle East hinder its ability to cope with rising dangers. Both Russia and China have committed greater resources in recent years to the Middle East than in the past, and China, in particular, may emerge as a challenger to Washington in the region. Other regional powers, including Iran, could find a patron of sorts in China, dramatically complicating Israeli efforts to limit Iranian activity in the region or its nuclear program.

If AmericanChinese competition grows more severe, as is quite possible, Israeli policymakers may be forced to make stark and costly choices. While Israel should favor American interests in this scenario, doing so could entail real economic pain, especially given the centrality of Israel’s technology sector to its economy. In addition to broader great power shifts, Israel’s relationship with the United States — its most important means for countering the threats it faces — will face new challenges. The United States routinely provides Israel with diplomatic cover in myriad active ways. The partnership with the United States also provides Israel with secondary advantages, as countries throughout the world, including the Middle East, seek closer ties with Israel so as to advance their interests in Washington. The United States also provides Israel with annual military support, currently $3.8 billion, to be spent in the United States. The United States further has served as a supplier of essential materiel in times of need, including most notably the 1973 war, but more recently too.

Putting the long-term trajectory of U.S.-Israeli relations on strong footing is therefore a primary Israeli interest today. Israel can ignore the moral, ideological, and strategic questions posed by its relationship to the Palestinians for a time, but it cannot escape them. And, indeed, Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians stands out as one area where Israel has significant control. One substantial challenge that looms ahead is Netanyahu’s declared intention to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and as many as 132 Jewish settlements in the West Bank—a defacto annexation that Palestinians say would destroy all hope for a two-state peace agreement. Such a step may not stop Arab states and Israelis from doing business together, but it will likely slow the pace and inhibit public expressions of support for increased cooperation. It would be a mistake to believe that nearly three-quarters of a century, over which Israel was demonized by the Arab world, can be erased because Arab rulers have decided it is better to work together.
Israel’s new policy with Arab countries mainly focuse on the security which predominantely contains the economic and technological security ensurance where military cooperation such as airpower, firepower, cyber technology and intellignce where its peace treaties and security cooperation with Arab countries sees what it will play its regional dominance in the MENA region. However, without a credible policy for Palestine, especially by ensuring the indepence for Palestine, current Israel’s policy with Arab states is just nothing but a stage of honemoon and eyewash. n