Last days bombshell announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will normalise relations in a US-brokered deal is the fruit of years of low-key diplomacy, Multiple Gulf Arab states have been furtively building relations with Israel on the basis of shared animosity towards Iran, with the United States acting as cheerleader as its own relationship with Tehran deteriorated.
Former presidential envoy Brett McGurk tweeted that “Historic decision today from #UAE and #Israel to fully normalize relations. Contacts have been ongoing for years. It takes guts to make this final step. Diplomacy works,”
Israel has been assiduously courting Arab nations which do not recognise the Jewish state, and in 2019 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held surprise talks in Muscat with the ruler of Oman, Another nation that has voiced enthusiasm for engagement is Bahrain, whose foreign minister has called Israel “part of the heritage of this whole region”.
But regional powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had been squeamish about going public with any rapprochement in the absence of any progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Donald Trump hinted to reporters that further diplomatic breakthroughs were expected “Things are happening that I can t talk about,” Trump said.
The new deal jeopardises the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative sponsored by Saudi Arabia which called for Israel to withdraw from Arab territory occupied in 1967, in return for peace and the normalisation of relations between Arab nations and Israel.
The Israel-UAE agreement is likely to be criticised by some regional governments and reignite criticism on the “Arab Street” that the regional powers are abandoning the Palestinian people.
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