The Trump administration made Israel’s occupation a reality, now Arab countries are seemingly coming round - but Palestinians are paying the price.

Since the United Nations Security Council resolution 242 was adopted in 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, 'land for peace' has been the dominant framework for peace in the region.

The Israeli occupation of the Egyptian Sinai, the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan heights post-1967, were viewed mainly through the 'land for peace' initiative.

The formula was simple: Israel gives up occupying land in return for a workable and durable peace agreement with its neighbours.

Under the Trump administration, however, peace in the Middle East looks like it has shifted dramatically.

In nominating David Friedman, a devout Orthodox Jew and an outspoken financial and political backer of illegal Israeli settlements, Donald Trump set the stage.

It was a clear message to all: Friedman's nomination was an admission that the notion of 'land for peace', already in its twilight, was finally over.

Last week's announcement that there would be a normalisation of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, with the enthusiastic backing of the Trump administration on the basis of 'peace for peace', arguably marks the death knell of Arab solidarity, even performatively, towards the Palestinians.

For decades, the strength of the Arab world has been the common negotiating front - in withholding recognition, it can get Israel to abide by particular international norms.

In breaking ranks, the UAE is signalling that there is now a race over which country can negotiate a better deal with Israel.

Arab states seem increasingly willing to explore a plurality of options when it comes to a relationship with Israel. The Palestinian question is no longer the prism through which they will conduct their relationship with Israel.

The notion of 'peace for peace' is a new formula that forgoes the need for Israel to give up land, but rather satisfying the immediate interest of the country with which it is negotiating.

For decades, there has been a clandestine relationship between not just the UAE and Israel, but also Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, amongst others, leading some to speculate that they could be the next dominos to fall into the pro-Israeli camp.

With a keen eye on establishing deeper economic ties, the UAE's assistant to the information ministry, Omar Ghobas, said, "We saw an opportunity to take a bold step, one with the potential to fashion a new regional paradigm and introduce a new way of thinking — pragmatic, practical and solution-oriented."

Unlike the Camp David Accords, which saw Israel and Egypt establish relations in 1979, becoming the first Arab country to recognise Israel, Cairo managed to get the Sinai in return. Similarly, Jordan established effective borders and amongst other things, a recognition of the unique Jordanian role at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Both deals have been hugely unpopular among Arabs. However, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan did not walk away empty-handed.

As Arab states increasingly peel away from Palestinians, unable to secure their freedom without outside help in creating their state, the deal with the UAE marks another milestone in the end of a two-state solution.

A paradigm shift, but not the one the UAE claims

The UAE deal, on the other hand, marks a shift. The Palestinians were not consulted or informed by the UAE of the forthcoming agreement with Israel. The Palestinians leadership also viscerally rejected the UAE's view that the deal would protect Palestinian interests.

The Israeli ministry of economy has said that the deal with the UAE could quickly result in hundreds of millions of dollars in trade between the two countries, opening up Israel to UAE petrodollars.

Jordan's King Abdullah once described the Israeli-Palestinian battle as the "core conflict" in the region and should it be resolved, it would mean unlocking other issues.

Last week's agreement shows that the international and regional climate has changed.

The deal rewards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's threats to annex illegally occupied Palestinian land, which has been temporarily halted but does not prevent future annexation.

In addition, the UAE deal rewards the Trump administration's recognition of Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem in December 2017, as well as the annexation of the occupied Golan Heights in 2019.

This followed an announcement in November 2019 where the US said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land to be illegal under international law.

Finally, in January of this year, a "peace plan" was announced - it was hugely favourable for Israel and effectively left the Palestinians with a rump state and allowed Tel Aviv to keep all the settlements.

The UAE deal, therefore, is just another marker on the timeline where Israeli occupation and annexation is deemed as a done deal. Now, the Gulf Kingdoms have rubber-stamped the move. 

Source: TRT World