The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a US military ally since the 1990 gulf war and currently supports the the Saudi/US led coalition against Iran so getting them to agree to a normalisation agreement with Israel wasn’t going to be an insurmountable task. So, in August 2020, the US managed to broker a ‘Normalisation deal’ between Israel & the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel officially agreed to ‘suspend’ (not stop) plans for annexing parts of the West Bank in return but despite the fact that Israeli annexation appeared, on the surface, to be the key obstacle to ‘normalisation’ for the UAE, Netanyahu was quick to declare that Israel’s sovereignty claim to the Jordan Valley would still be on the agenda and that annexation had only been suspended.
The fact that Israel then declared there would be military cooperation with the UAE in response to tensions with Iran, should tell us more about the real reason why the UAE chose to normalise relations.
Kuwait, Yemen and Morocco were quick to denounce the move and a statement condemning the treaty was issued by a joint assembly including Liberals, Shi’ites, Islamists, and Arabists. In fact, 41 out of 50 Kuwaiti MPs signed a letter opposing normalization and organised a gathering to express solidarity in front of the Palestinian embassy in Kuwait City. A number of other Arab nations subsequently either expressed their anger at the move or offered expressions of support to the Palestinians and openly rejected any idea of normalisation with Israel. We also witnessed a rare event as we observed numerous Palestinian factions coming together, united in their rejection of the deal.
Iranians declared that the UAE would be held equally responsible as Israel for any threat to Iran and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that the UAE had effectively betrayed the Islamic world and would soon regret their decision as they’ll forever bear the shame for accepting such a deal.
Turkey also condemned the UAE for what they saw as an unforgivable agreement and declared that the UAE were now effectively in violation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
There were rallies and demonstrations against the agreement all over Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Pakistan “cannot ever accept Israel as long as Palestinians are not given their rights and there is no just settlement”
It is also worth noting that any dissent from activists living within the UAE or Bahrain would have been met with a government crackdowns. Which tells us a great about what these countries recognise as ‘normal’ behaviour.
Bahrain also signed a normalisation deal with Israel in September this year. In truth this was merely a formality as Bahrain had already abandoned its boycott of Israel in exchange for a free US trade agreement back in 2005. Bahrain is also one of the predominantly Sunni controlled Arab countries allied with the Saudi’s against what they perceive as Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East. Of course, the fact that Iran is the only officially Shia nation of the world is not an insignificant detail.
Shortly after the UAE & Bahrain deal, Sudan also agreed to a normalisation agreement with Israel in October 2020, in return for a trade agreement.
If we take a closer look we note that 97% of the Muslim population of the UAE are Sunni and while 62% of the Muslim population of Bahrain are Shia, the royal family and most of Bahrain’s ruling elite are Sunni. It’s also worth noting that while Sudan’s Muslims follow either Sufism or Salafism, they are politically aligned with Sunni’s and joined the Saudi-led intervention against the Shia Houthis in Yemen in 2015.
It’s worth noting that Iran recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, immediately after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite the fact that the vast majority of Palestinians are Sunni Muslims. Iran’s allies also include Syria which, again, is a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, Iraq which is about 62.5% Shia and 37.5% Sunni and Lebanon who’s population is 54% Muslim and 40.5% Christian but whose Muslim population is split equally (27% Sunni / 27% Shia).
It’s also no coincidence that the predominantly Saudi-led Sunni nations attack, what they refer to as, “Shia insurgents” in Yemen and Syria, and the Saudi’s western allies have proven that they clearly know how to take full advantage of sectarianism. After all, they’ve done it many times before.
Clearly, stirring up murderous factionalism has served the US and Israel rather well so far but I’m not sure what shocks me more – their greed and murderous intent or their claims that they are somehow bringing peace and stability to the region.