The utopia of the Middle East free from conflict is not within reach at the moment. Conflict is likely to characterise the region for years if not decades to come. The people of the region are the victims, especially the youth, who in many countries were born into conflict, and it is the only life they've known.
Israel is at the heart of several conflicts. It remains in occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land. In recent months, it has attacked targets in Syria, Lebanon and even Iraq. The justification this time was that it was countering Iran’s presence.
It is also worth remembering that its operatives killed a Palestinian, Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, in a hotel in Dubai in 2010. In 2016, Israel was thought to have killed Mohammed Al Zawari, a Tunisian drone expert, who it claimed worked with Hamas’ Al Qassam brigade. In 2018, Palestinian academic Fadi Al Batsh was killed in Malaysia and Israel was again the prime suspect.
Its repeated attacks on the beleaguered Gaza strip have left thousands dead, tens of thousands wounded and scores of homes destroyed. It has annexed illegally occupied East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights.
Israel has not only denied Palestinian refugees the right to return in accordance with international law, but it has also been working to remove their status as refugees and to close down UNRWA.
Israel claims the UNRWA, which provides jobs and relief to the Palestinian refugees, perpetuates the conflict with the Palestinians. However, this is a conflict that started when it was created through violence, resulting in the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians to neighbouring Arab states, in which they continue to languish in desperate conditions.
Israel also continues to settle its population illegally on occupied land in Palestine and the Golan Heights.
Israel is likely the most destabilising and aggressive state in the region, which the international community needs to reign in, rather than treat it with kid-gloves. None of its aggressive actions has led to any accountability, either by individual states or the international community.
Now, the most aggressive state in the Middle East is developing a “non-aggression pact” with some Gulf States.
The claim comes from Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, who further claimed that he met with several foreign ministers from Arab Gulf states on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month, as reported by Channel 12 news recently.
The TV channel claimed that Katz presented his Gulf counterparts with a draft text of the intended pact, which was drawn up by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
It reportedly highlights the opportunity to advance common interests in the context of the threat posed by Iran and is drafted in accordance with the principles of international law. Yes, you read that correctly. The Middle Eastern country responsible for serial breaches of international law when it comes to conflicts with its neighbours, especially the Palestinians, suddenly sees international law as a reference point for this ‘pact’.
Israel currently sees an opportunity to make gains it could only have only dreamt about just a few years ago. The Trump Administration has handed it not only significant wins that it can offer but pushed the narrative to Israel’s neighbouring states that the greatest threat they pose is not from Israel, but Iran.
This has all been allowed by the United States' unilateral decisions recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The US Special Envoy for negotiations, Jason Greenblatt presented the Israeli prime minister with a map showing the Golan Heights as part of Israel. While these recognitions were only made by the US and the rest of the world has rejected it, Netanyahu is happy to bank these for now and to push for others to follow the American lead.
Next on the list is likely to be the annexation of vast swathes of the West Bank, which one can be relatively confident in thinking would then be endorsed by US President Donald Trump. This would be an act of political aggression that will deal a fatal blow to any possibility of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
In the past few years, some Gulf States have warmed relations with Israel, allowing sporting teams to compete on Arab soil and Israeli ministers, including the prime minister himself to visit these countries.
However, what has Israel offered in return to convince these states that further normalisation and a “non-aggression pact” would help bring stability and peace nearer? The answer is a resounding nothing.
In other words, Israel takes and never gives. It wants to see the Israeli flag fly over Gulf capitals but will not recognise the Palestinian people’s rights.
Before racing to sign a “non-aggression pact” with Israel, Gulf States should insist it first ends its status as the most aggressive state in the region. Until then, they should pour cold water on their normalisation efforts. The time for normalisation and pacts is not now.
A peaceful Middle East is more out of reach now than it's ever been in recent history.
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