In recent months, Israel made diplomatic deals with two Middle East countries such as the UAE and Bahrain. These formal diplomatic ties, brokered by the USA which earlier revealed a Middle East peace plan, have immediately caused heavy criticisms among many Muslim countries in the Arab region and beyond. Of course, mounting criticisms are not surprising at all since Muslims countries are usually in favor of a two–state solution to the Israel–Palestine crisis with a sovereign state of Palestine with territories, some of which are now occupied by Israel through the historic 1967–War and subsequent annexation moves, and have maintained strained relations with Israel since its creation in 1948.
Obviously, it is not that Muslim countries have no diplomatic ties with the state of Israel. Indeed, several countries especially Egypt and Jordan built diplomatic relations in 1979 and 1994 respectively and, before making the 2020 diplomatic deals, the UAE maintains business and other relations with Israel since 2015. Various reports also show that some Gulf Arab states have established covert relations with Israel in recent years. Expectedly, diplomatic deals of the UAE and Bahrain with Israel do not seem neither surprising nor legally wrong too, even though Muslim countries — signatory to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative — are religiously and morally in the position that Israel can only be acknowledged as a state once it makes peace with Palestine based on territories prior to the historic Six-Day-war.
But a relevant question is already raised: can Israel’s recent diplomatic deals with Arab states influence the Palestine’s pursuance of a sovereign state? In my opinion, these deals may not have remarkable effects, although negative outcomes are more likely than positive ones. Optimistically speaking, recent ties have some potentials to facilitate pursuance of the two–state solution to the Israel–Palestine crisis, provided that Muslim countries having diplomatic relations with Israel are willing to and can utilize such scope. In fact, the 2020 Abraham accords, signed between Israel and the UAE, clearly states for a shared commitment of the parties to working together to realize a negotiated solution to the Israel–Palestine conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both peoples.
In the mean time, Israel cancelled its plan for further annexation to parts of the occupied West Bank in return for normalisation of relations with the UAE, which reiterated its intention to continue efforts to solve the crisis. Also, improved relations owing to recent ties will definitely give more conducive space to the UAE and Bahrain for putting diplomatic pressure upon Israel based on the commitment stated in the deal and reaching to an acceptable and peaceful resolution. Yet, whether and how much these countries can generate actual cooperation from Israel for meaningful efforts to a negotiated settlement remains unsure when earlier ties of Egypt and Jordan did not improve the Israel–Palestine situation.
But it is understandable that the recent deals, seen as landmark achievements for Israel, can give it a big advantage — economically and geo-politically — in the Middle East, to say the least. In fact, many experts in international relations clearly point out that Israel’s recent diplomatic moves reflect its broader geopolitical goals in the Arab region aiming at securing more economic opportunities, establishing its stronger position as well as curbing down influence of its regional rivals including Iran. Unsurprisingly, bilateral ties have potentials to make some significant changes in the regional politics, which is very complex by reason of rivalry between regional powers and involvement of global leaders.
As is well known, Saudi Arabia, rendered as the leading Sunni Muslim power, and its allied Arab counties are in geo–political competition in the region with Iran — known as a largely Shia Muslim power — and its allied countries. The UAE and Bahrain, both allies of Saudi Arabia, have edgy relations with Iran. Under such circumstances, Israel’s recent diplomatic pacts with two geo–strategically important Arab countries can not only strengthen Israel — the only nuclear power (in the whole Middle East) which has geopolitical rivalry with Iran and good connections with Saudi Arabia — and the Saudi block at least to some extent but also lead to some turbulent changes in the Middle East politics in the coming years.
In my opinion, potential changes in the regional politics may make the issue of Palestine less important at least among Arab counties having diplomatic ties with Israel. Israel may also use it as an opportunity for the realization of its intention to keep occupied lands occupied in the future too. But it seems unlikely that the given issue will be influenced significantly; in fact, Muslim countries supporting a sovereign state of Palestine seem less willing to change their position mainly because, if I do not wrongly perceive, they mostly see the Israel–Palestine crisis as religious and moral issues. Heavy criticisms of Muslim countries against recent diplomatic deals of course indicate an uncompromised position on this issue.
The Israel–Palestine crisis is, moreover, not a regional issue only. It is a global concern and global voice favoring Palestine will continue in the days ahead, though the recent deals may facilitate a few more deals between Israel and some other Muslim states. Indeed, the UN, the EU and most countries — dominated by Christian and other faiths — favor the resolution based on the pre–War territories. The recent past votes of most countries in the UN General Assembly favoring Palestine over Israel on the issue of the relocation of foreign embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem made it clear once again. Recent diplomatic pacts are, in my opinion, less likely to influence the global concern regarding Palestine.
Obviously, no state is bound to refrain from making trans–boundary relations with any other state. National interests — economic and others — are the most important driving force for such relations, though religion plays crucial roles too. But Muslim countries, including those having ties and willing to make ties with Israel, have moral responsibilities to support a two–state solution based on the pre–War territory. Simultaneously, Israel should not render diplomatic deals as a means of further suppression of the Palestine’s self–determination. Given the religious sensitivity of the crisis, Israel may, if I rightly perceive, remain unrecognized by most Muslim countries unless it is acceptably resolved.
Amir Mohammad Sayem: Researcher and writes Op-eds on miscellaneous issues including social, political, environmental, public health and international relations
Dhaka, Bangladesh Email:email@example.com