While some Arab countries like Algeria and Qatar strongly oppose any normalisations with Israel, others, like Saudi Arabia, are holding back their official position and treading cautiously.
With the UAE-Bahrain deal, Israel appears to have won another victory against the long-endured Arab sentiment,which refused to recognise Israel unless the Zionist state accepted a Palestinian state alongside it. The deal has further divided the Middle Eastern states.
Since 1948, Israel has won several military victories against different Arab alliances. Despite facing defeats, much of the Arab world has refused to accept Israel as a legitimate state.
But with recent normalisation deals with the UAE and Bahrain, Israel seeks to legitimise its past military victories with shrewd diplomacy and by reaping benefits from the divided Middle East.
The Arab League, which is known for paying lip service to the Palestinian suffering by only merely condemning Zionist atrocities, took a jarringly passive approach towards the deal and did not condemn it at all.
Richard Falk, a well-known expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian cause and an international law professor of Princeton University, believes that the UAE-Bahrain deal has managed to deepen differences in the Middle East ranging from Turkey to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“It confirmed an acceptance of relations with Israel on the part of these Gulf monarchies on the basis of their self-interests, including arms acquisitions and U.S. diplomatic support, while abandoning the earlier Arab consensus on withholding normalization until the Palestinians have their own state with its capital in Jerusalem,” Falk told TRT World.
“I think the willingness to endorse these normalization agreements in the White House setting was a dramatic expression of identification with Trump’s regional diplomacy in the Middle East and a formalized repudiation of Palestinian aspirations for a sustainable peace based on their inalienable right of self-determination,” he explains.
Saudi Arabia, a powerful Gulf state and also custodian of Islam's two holiest cities, has not publicly joined the pro-Israeli Arab alliance due to apparently internal differences. Some sources suggest that it might do so in the near future. The same sources also indicated that Riyadh backed Bahrain to join the UAE normalisation with Israel.
Despite the UAE-led Gulf’s rapprochement policy towards Israel, some Arab states like Algeria and Qatar have continued to oppose any normalisation with Israel as long as Tel Aviv refuses to accept Palestine’s right to exist as an independent state.
“Algeria will not participate in the mad rush among [some] Arabs to normalise ties with Israel. We will not participate in it. We will not accept it. We will not bless it,” said Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Sunday, rebuking UAE-led normalisation efforts.
“The Palestinian issue is sacred for us and it is the mother of all issues and will not be resolved except by establishing a Palestinian state, with the 1967 borders, with Holy Jerusalem as its capital,” the president emphasised.
Qatar, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause in the Gulf, also came out with a strong statement, slamming the normalisation deal signed by two of its neighbours.
“The State of Qatar affirmed its firm position on the Palestinian issue, which stipulates ending the Israeli occupation and establishing the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital within the framework of international legitimacy and relevant Security Council resolutions while granting all Palestinian refugees the right of return,” an official statement was quotedas saying by the Qatar News Agency.
Turkey and Iran, two non-Arab Muslim-majority states, have also strongly criticised recent normalisation deals with Israel, revealing the stark division in the Middle East clear for the region’s long-term divisions.
What is the message of the normalisation deal?
Prominent experts think that the new normalisations mean something more than just the recognition of Israel as a legitimate state, pointing out that the occurrence of the deal has been planned in a way to target the two regional powers, Turkey and Iran, which refuse any colonialist designs in the Middle East.
“It should be kept in mind that the normalization agreements were preceded by a decade of extensive cooperative arrangements between Israel and these two Arab states,” says Falk.
“However, the agreements might also be intended to send a message to Iran that such an alliance is now robust enough to counter any further Iranian regional expansion, and as a warning to reduce profile in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Gaza, and Lebanon or face the consequences,” he adds.
“There is also a Turkish dimension, which seems intended to express the priority accorded by these governments to reconciling with Israel even if it means greater distancing from Turkey,” stresses the international law professor.
Sami al Arian, a Palestinian-American professor, and the director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (GIGA) at Sabahattin Zaim University, thinks similarly to Falk.
“We have alliances that have existed for some time. But now they have become in the open. They have existed in the past discreetly, behind-the-scenes, secretly. But we now see these alliances in front of our eyes. [They are] very transparent,” says Arian, referring to the UAE-Bahrain deal with Israel.
Arian believes that with the deal, the pro-Israeli Arab alliance backed by the US, sends a public message towards both Iran and Turkey that it is ready to confront them.
“They want to confront them [Turkey and Iran] one at a time and try to pacify Turkey and neutralise Iran,” Arian told TRT World.
“To do that is of course a tall order. But that’s one of the major geopolitical objectives of the current alliance, which is pretty much led by the United States, and I would say, Israel,” Arian continues.
The UAE-Bahrain normalisation deal serves the interests of Arab autocrats very well as opposed to the anti-Israeli stances of Turkey, a democratic state, and Iran, a state with a semi-democratic rule, according to Arian.
“[For a considerable time] Arab-client states are working for the benefits and objectives of Israel because their main objective is to preserve their dictatorial rules,” the professor says.
“They have been in existence, ruling their people for decades. They have no intention of turning into any kind of democracy or have people give them a say how they are being ruled.”
“They are trying to preserve the status quo by allying themselves with these foreign interests led by the United States and Israel,” he concludes.