The Iranian threat has helped motivate peace in the Middle East

by Sasho Markovski

Before reflecting upon the peace deal between Israel and Bahrain, let us look at the timeline of previous peace deals between Israel and the other Arab countries. To fully appreciate the peace deals and Establishment of Diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, we need to remember that it took 31 years for Egypt to recognize Israel in 1979. The second Arab country to recognize Israel was Jordan; 25 years after Egypt. Following a 26-year gap, the UAE announced that it would establish diplomatic relations in August 2020; then it took less than a month for Bahrain to sign a peace deal with Israel as well. The last two deals were mediated by the US President Donald Trump via Jared Kushner, his Senior Advisor and son-in-law.

The Israel-Bahrain Peace deal, officially known as the Abraham Accords: Declaration of Peace, Cooperation and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations, was signed on September 15, 2020 at the White House. This agreement goes beyond a peace deal (especially since neither Bahrain, nor the UAE have ever been at war with Israel). This trend of establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab countries could lead to the a formation of a union, not unlike the EU’s predecessor – the European Economic Community, with its main goal being to promote the exchange of technology, investment, trade, tourism, expertise and more. This type of union would result in a huge regional economic boost. Israelis and Arabs could finally do business without the ever-present veil of secrecy. Israel’s IT and tech sectors are among the most advanced, and desired, in the world. The UAE, Bahrain and most other Arab countries would then be able to buy weapons and equipment without the fear of objection from Israel. Their economies would also benefit from visits and investment by Israeli businessmen/women and tourists.

To accomplish these deals, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a conservative approach. Instead of hoping for perfect conditions, dreaming of utopian expectations or tearing down imperfect foundations, as true conservatives they were grateful for what they had and decided to build upon that foundation. They looked at what Arabs and Israelis can bring to the table and worked with that towards peace and prosperity. Besides technology, trade, military equipment, all the participants brought wariness to the negotiating table – wariness of Iran’s unwelcome influence looming over the region. Israel, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia… all feel the threat from Iran. 

Following Kushner and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statements it is apparent that there is potential for new deals. Some analysts believe it is only a matter of time before the regional heavyweight, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, establishes diplomatic relations with Israel. That might be a touch too optimistic now.

The KSA will not risk alienating most of the world’s Muslim population and its religious position as the leader of the Muslim world. Moreover, a deal with Israel would likely unite Iran, Turkey and Qatar (among others) in demanding internationalizing the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Instead the KSA will probably continue to quietly support its allies’ partnerships with Israel while (in)directly sharing security information and promoting trade.

It recently tested domestic and regional public opinion as Abdulrahman al-Sudais, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, who is appointed by the king and a staunch critic of Israel in the past, recently spoke about the Prophet Mohammed who was kind to his Jewish neighbour and converted Jews by treating them well. While approaching the diplomatic landscape very carefully, it seems like the KSA is ready for an official thawing of relations with Israel. In the meantime, the leaders of a few other Arab countries, such as Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, even Sudan and Qatar, might be willing to put their signatures on the dotted line.  

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