It is safe to say that the new peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, officially signed at the White House on September 15, 2020, represents an important strategic shift, and a fundamental turning point for the long-running conflict between Arabs and Israel.
As is customary in the Middle East, this bold step has been met with deeply divided opinions and attitudes. It is not surprising that it has been blatantly rejected by the Palestinian side. Conversely, it could be argued that a peace agreement of this magnitude is expected to have massive implications not only for the relations of the two states involved but also for the entire Middle East region and the international arena.
It is important to note that the UAE-Israeli peace agreement was never presented as the salvation for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but there is no denying that it is indeed a “historic breakthrough" as the first peace agreement between an Arab state and Israel in over a quarter of a century. It can also be described as one of the clearest practical manifestations reflecting the new ideological approach being adopted by UAE’s leadership to address the region’s conflicts and challenges.
With regards to this recent peace agreement and its strategic implications, the last decade of the twenty-first century (2010 to 2020) has witnessed a real and fundamental transformation in the Middle East region, so that it could be said that the regional order that we have known since the end of the Second World War has ended. There have been major international and regional power shifts. The states taking the lead on the Arab world have also changed along with the prevailing visions, interests, priorities, and threats. During this last decade, many geo-strategic projects and non-Arab competing programs have surfaced in the region. Gulf States have had to rise to the challenge and adapt to these geo-strategic changes by taking rational, realistic, and practical decisions to maintain the stability of the region and ensure the survival of its nations and people. This was no easy feat, mistakes were made, agendas were at times misguided, political polarization mounted, and a lot of resources were drained. Undoubtedly, the situation was not ideal.
President Donald Trump, center, with from left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP)
In the light of this geopolitical context, the peace agreement between the UAE and Israel, which was described by many analysts and experts as a major strategic move, will surely have broad implications beyond UAE-Israeli relations, Gulf-Israeli relations, or even Arab-Israeli relations. These implications may extend to neighboring regions such as South Asia and the Mediterranean Basin.
The strategic implications of the agreement is nothing short of a game-changer, it will bring about new developments in the region starting with boosting the region’s stability, ensuring prosperity, as well as introducing vital regional projects that serve the interests of the people in fields such as economy, technology, education, medicine, water, energy and agriculture.
An official stands at the door of an Israeli El Al airliner after it landed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on August 31, 2020. (AP)
As for Turkey, the signing of this peace agreement poses an unexpected strategic shift. Prior to the Justice and Development Party’ accession to power in 2002, Israeli-Turkish relations stood on firm grounds. However, now due to its misleading, provocative, and aggressive policies towards many countries of the region and the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean countries, Turkey’s regional position has weakened significantly. This peace agreement can help Turkey realize that the strategic benefits of dialogue and tolerance far outweigh the immediate gains of coercive, menacing, and hostile policies. If Turkey chooses to learn from this experience, it will positively impact Euro-Turkish relations. The Emirati-Israeli agreement has an unrivaled chance make a real difference in the region by contributing to easing conflicts and reducing tension.
The Emirati decision to sign a peace agreement with Israel is seen by many as a smart strategic move that will undoubtedly serve both parties involved as well as the entire region. The UAE may have been the first country to take this game-changing step; however, the benefits that will surely be gained as a result of its ties with Israel will prompt more Arab countries to follow its lead. As Israel continues to build and expand its ties at the regional level, peace agreements will start serving their intended strategic purpose, which is to boost security and stability as well as improve the quality of life for the people in the region. Such developments will help the Middle East catch up with other regions where countries have been able to develop through dialogue and tolerance that reflected positively on their stability and growth.