As Netanyahu exploits Gulf nations’ fear of Iran, a future Palestine state is no longer a prerequisite for Gulf countries to formalise ties with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, pledged last Saturday to annex the occupied West Bank if he wins tomorrow’s general election.
Although Netanyahu aims to gain right-wing voters who don’t believe in the feasibility of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, the move would prove to be the death knell for the two-state solution and lead to the collapse of the future existence of a Palestinian state.
In an interview with Israel's Channel 12 News, Netanyahu said: “We will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements."
Home to more than 2.5 million Palestinians, the West Bank has been witnessing the constant rise of illegal settlements housing more than 400,000 Israelis, with the support of Israel’s military occupation.
A further 200,000 Israelis live in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, over which Israel has already implemented its absolute control.
A future Palestinian state would exist in what is now the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Settlements built on Palestinians lands since the Six-Day War in 1967 are deemed illegal by many in the international community and the United Nations, and the ongoing construction of settlements is seen as a major obstacle to any peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Contrary to the speech he gave in 2009, in which he supported a two-state solution, Netanyahu recently said that “a Palestinian state will not be created”.
Despite the consistent undermining of the two-state solution and the rights of Palestinians, Arab countries have not hesitated getting into bed with Israel.
In recent months Arab nations, and particularly the Gulf nations, have shifted towards cosying up to Israel as a bulwark against Iran. The wars in Yemen or Syria, multiple economic crises and unrest throughout the Middle East have not resulted in any principled stands from most Arab nations and Gulf states.
Encouraged by US President Donald Trump’s support and exploiting the Gulf nations’ hostility towards Iran, Netanyahu has managed to build close relations with a number of Arab states, most significantly Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
The Trump-Saudi-UAE alliance sees Tel Aviv as a primary partner in the region and this has struck a major blow to Palestinian aspirations for statehood, as well as other issues such as Palestinian refugees’ right to return, the funding of Palestinian organisations and the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights.
Since Netanyahu announced Israel’s annexation of West Bank plan and Golan Heights, Arab countries have remained largely silent.
In fact, last Sunday, the Head of Foreign Affairs in Oman, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, said Arabs must take initiatives to make Israel overcome "fears for its future" in the region.
"I believe that we Arabs must be able to look into this issue and try to ease those fears that Israel has through initiatives and real deals between us and Israel," he told a panel discussing geopolitics.
The UAE’s Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash, publicly said that the Arab states should accept the fate that a Palestinian state is “no longer” viable and argued that in “10 to 15 years, the discussion will be what is the nature of the Israeli state, what are the rights of the Palestinians within that Israeli state”.
A leaked video from Netanyahu’s office showed officials from Gulf nations claiming that confronting Tehran is more urgent than solving the Palestinian question and Israel has the right to attack Iran. The summit marked a milestone in the Middle East as US Vice President Mike Pence noted “a new era”.
As the Netanyahu administration gathers Gulf nations under its umbrella by exploiting their fear of Iran, and with Trump’s backing, the Israeli annexation will most likely not shake the recent bridges built between Gulf nations and Israel.