The UAE and Bahrain sign a new peace agreement with Israel. A new era of peace for the Middle East region or a new intensive arms race?
By Nikita Triandafilldis
“The new peace agreement between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel brings a new era of hope for peace in the Middle East. However, it also brings a potential arms race and new conflicts between Arab nations. How important is Saudi Arabia’s influence in the deals and will this new agreement reshape the geopolitics of the area?”
Trump hails the beginning of a new era in the Middle East
Donald Trump has every right to be euphoric about the achievement of his administration. The new peace agreements between the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel symbolize the beginning of a new era in the Middle East.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been recognized only by two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan. President Donald Trump expressed his hopes for more Arab countries to join the peace agreements while the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned that these agreements mark a new historic day for peace.
While Bahrain and the UAE are not the first Arab countries to recognize Israel, still these treaties represent a significant development in the region and without doubt can be recognized as the most important achievement of the Trump administration.
The fact that there is still no solution to the Palestinian problem and more Arab nations recognize Israel, shows an opportunity to end escalations in the region, promoting a pan-Arab unity.
When asked about the Palestinian statehood, UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, stressed out that the Palestinian question is central for the UAE and that the agreement between them and Israel includes an obligation from Israel to suspend any plans of annexing parts of the occupied West Bank.
He mentions that there was a window of opportunity to stop the annexation and secure the viability of the two-state solution. The UAE has called for the Palestinian leadership to take advantage of this moment and decide a different approach to engage in productive discussions with Israel.
A “black day” for Palestine
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the agreements saying that peace has not been achieved since there is no end in the Israeli occupation.
Since Palestinian statehood has not been achieved there cannot be a peace agreement stated the Palestinian side, who views the treaties between Israel and the two Arab states as a “knife in the back” for the Palestinian cause.
Alongside the Palestinians, stands Iran and Turkey whom both have condemned the treaty to normalize relations with Israel. Turkey announced its strong concern regarding the treaties and the fate of Palestine, stressing out that this is a step towards shameful efforts that try to destabilize the Palestinian cause and give leverage to Israel to continue its illegal occupation of Palestine.
The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is a strong supporter and advocate of the Palestinian cause and the rights of Palestinians criticized the Arab nations and the West for encouraging the Israeli policies of occupation and annexation of Palestine.
He warned that Turkey could suspend diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain in the near future.
In a statement on Iranian television, Javad Zarif, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs accused Bahrain and the UAE of treason and held their governments responsible for any destabilization caused by Israel. He quoted.
“This shameful move sacrifices the Palestinian cause and decades of struggle, at the expense of the US election. This move will remain in the historical memory of the oppressed and downtrodden people of Palestine and the world’s free nations forever”
These agreements can only be seen as a setback by the Palestinian side, who see steady support by the Arab nations as their only way to survive against Israeli aggression and illegal occupation.
However, since Donald Trump’s pressure on the Gulf states and his pro-Israeli agenda, Palestine seems to lose their only option for survival.
A new arms race on the horizon
After the first deal with the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the USA proposed the potential sale of arms and weapons to the UAE. While this will benefit both countries militarily and diplomatically, Israel started raising concerns about the security in the region if any of those deals go through.
The peace agreement opens the way for new trading opportunities in the military sector. U.S officials hinted that there might be a possible sale of advanced F-35 stealth jets to the UAE, alongside other top-quality weaponry and defense systems. The F-35 will have the capability to fully upgrade the UAE militarily.
With that being said, Israel would be extremely cautious about any of those potential deals. For Israel, the sale of sophisticated weaponry to the UAE or Bahrain will be approached with skepticism as it poses a dangerous development for the security of the country.
Senior intelligence officials from Israel already express their objection towards any arms deal that can endanger Israel’s superiority in the Middle East region.
As for now, there is no official announcement about any arms sale from the USA to the UAE, however, the deal is going to go through sometime shortly.
When asked about the possibility of endangering Israel’s security with this arms deal, UAE’s Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash, stressed out that the peace agreement with Israel should reassure their counterparts that there will be no endangerment to Israel’s security by the potential sale of F-35 jets to the UAE.
However, Israeli officials mentioned that UAE’s statement will be reviewed with a pinch of salt and that any future arms deal cannot guarantee the stable relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Due to Israel’s size and its geopolitical position, military advantage in the Middle East is the only way for the country to ensure its safety and development.
Removing this advantage from Israel and forcing it to compete with the UAE, Bahrain or any other Arab country might jeopardize the country’s stability.
For the time, however, the U.S has already expressed its commitment to provide top-quality weapons to Israel.
Since 2008 the U.S under the Obama administration made this commitment a law allocating almost $38 billion in a 10-year aid package, ensuring the fruitful cooperation between them and Israel.
How the Saudi/Iranian conflict influenced the agreements
With the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran rising in recent decades due to religious and political differences, it is not a secret that Saudi Arabia seeks closer ties to the U.S to stop the Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Bahrain, the small archipelago Gulf state is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the U.S since it is home to the U.S Navy’s regional headquarters. The agreement to normalize relations with Israel was certainly influenced by these two nations.
While there are only speculations about Saudi Arabia joining the agreements with Israel, certainly, the previous agreements would not have been possible without their support.
In Bahrain’s situation, Saudi Arabia was pretty much the driving force behind it. Bahrain is politically and financially dependent on Saudi Arabia and this new deal with Israel will possibly help its sustainability in the Gulf area.
The driven factor for both the UAE and Bahrain is the desire to please Washington and secure solid diplomatic relations with it.
Pleasing Washington is the main key element to counter the Iranian hostility in the region. There is right now a strong campaign launched by the Trump administration and the Israeli side to outmaneuver Iran and leave the country completely isolated in the Middle East region.
Over the years, it seems that the Iranian threat has become more real for some Arab nations, with its influence in Yemen, Syria, and even Lebanon that borders Israel.
Saudi Arabia influenced Bahrain and the UAE to normalize relations with Israel, however, the Saudis themselves have not said anything about normalizing relations with Israel, but they do have the power to influence more Arab states.
Oman for example, welcomed the new agreements, expressing hope for these agreements to contribute positively to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
While there are no official statements towards normalizing the relations between the two states, the welcoming attitude by Oman has already been seen as a positive step by many Israeli officials.
In the end, it is no secret that the peace agreements between UAE, Bahrain, and Israel have geopolitical goals behind them.
A coalition of Arab states willing to normalize relations with Israel against Iran and possibly Turkey that has emerged as Palestine’s protector guarantees the sustainability of the Middle East region.
The question of the Palestinian statehood seems to have been sacrificed for the moment for different interests, either for potential arms sales, pleasing Saudi Arabia or simply getting the favor of the U.S.
We will have to see in the future if Saudi Arabia decides to normalize relations with Israel to get rid of Iranian influence in the region and what consequences will that have for the Palestinian people.