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Israel and UAE peace agreement and impacts on the political and security landscape in the Middle East

Under the mediation of the US, on August 13, 2020, Israel and the UAE reached a peace agreement (known as the Abraham Accords), officially closing the “hostility” that lasted more than half a century - opening a new chapter of history, with “warm” and “good” expectations between the two countries. Why Israel and the UEA agree to live “peacefully” with each other and how the political and security landscape in the Middle East will be represent a matter of great public concern.

Following Egypt in 1979, Jordan in 1994, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is the third Arab country and the first Gulf country to reach a peace agreement with Israel. Under the agreement, the two countries will work towards normalising and establishing bilateral diplomatic relations. The exchange of ambassadors and establishment of embassies will be discussed in the coming time. The two governments will discuss and sign cooperation agreements related to a wide range of sectors, such as investment, tourism, security, telecommunications, aviation, technology, energy, health, culture, and many other areas of mutual interest. The Israeli government pledged to suspend its sovereignty claims over the Arabs-occupied areas during the 1967 Middle East War; work with the UAE to seek a comprehensive, fair and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then, at the end of August 2020, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued an Ordinance to terminate the 1972 Act (the Act prohibiting relations with Israel). Israel's El Al Airline has made its first direct commercial flight to the UAE. This is a very important “initial” step for the two countries to realise the peace agreement and show their “goodwill” of leaders of both sides in closing the past “confrontation” towards a “warm” and “nice” future.

The deal comes from strategic interests

According to international analysts, the Israel-UEA peace agreement stems from the strategic interests of both Tel Aviv and Abu Dhab, first and foremost the great economic benefit. Israel and the UAE are considered the two most dynamic economies of the region. In recent years, although diplomatic relations are still in frozen state, two countries still have quiet “unofficial” economic and commercial transactions. Therefore, the peace agreement will create a legal premise for the two countries to officially establish relations and cooperation in the fields of economics, trade and services, especially taking advantage of each other's strengths and advantages to serve economic development of each country. Through cooperation agreements, programs and plans, Israel can enter and exploit the capital market which is said to be diversified and potential of the UAE. On the contrary, the UAE can take advantage of Israel's advanced and modern scientific and technological achievements to improve the quality and productivity of the nation's industries, agriculture, science and technology. According to the experts' calculations, as for the establishment of direct flights only, the airlines of the two countries will save hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel each year. With great potential if exploited well, the cooperation between these two leading developed economies will not only bring about great benefits for each country, but also for countries in the region. Another benefit is the security, the two countries successfully neutralised the “threat” to their country's national security and bring about the stability of the region which has been longed for decades; contribute to “dismantling the time bomb” threatening the two-state solution in the Palestinian-Israel conflict. And that, “The UAE will continue to strongly support the Palestinian people, for their dignity, their rights as well as the sovereign state of the Palestinians”.

For the US and Israel, the Abraham Accord is also an “arrow that hits many targets”. For many years, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been very active and consistent with his “Look East” strategy, which is considered a new strategy for Israel to resolve conflicts with Palestine and Arab countries. Accordingly, instead of a “confrontation”, “hostility” as before, Tel Aviv, with the help of Washington, will use soft and flexible measures to build “friendship relation” and “Peaceful coexistence” with Muslim countries in the Middle East, the Gulf region and in Africa, etc. Therefore, the peace agreement with the UAE is considered the “fruit” of the “Look East” strategy, opening the “door” for the Jewish State to implement the strategy of “integration with the Arab world”. On the other hand, the peace agreement with the UAE is also said to “remove difficulties” for Prime Minister Netanyahu, as there have been tough statements threatening to impose sovereignty over the occupied lands, which put him under fierce opposition from the public both at home and abroad. For President Donald Trump, successfully mediating the “hostile” relations, establishing a peaceful relationship between Israel and the UAE is really “lifeline” for his Middle East Peace plan “From peace to prosperity” announced in 2019 and hailed as the “Deal of the Century”, but is in danger of “premature death” as heavily condemned by Palestine and many Arab countries. The agreement also helped President Donald Trump regain the image of “a responsible intermediary”, which has been “deteriorated” since he unilaterally declared the recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March 2019 (the land occupied by Israel in Syria during the 6-day war in 1967). More profoundly, the Israel - UAE peace agreement helps the US and Israel “gather forces” in the Arab World to prevent what they call the “influence” of the “common enemy”, namely the Islamic State of Iran.

Impacts on the political and security landscape in the Middle East

Speaking after the signing of the agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his belief that the new US peace effort would end the Arab-Israeli conflict forever. He also considered the agreement “A pivot of history, heralds a new dawn of peace”, “a new era opened for Israel and the Arab world”. The UAE Foreign Minister assessed that “Israel's peace effort is a decision that reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come”. President Donald Trump praised that, after decades of disagreement and conflict, the Abraham Accord marked a new beginning for the Middle East. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the Israel and the UAE’s normalisation of relations “another important step toward peace in the region”. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lauded the agreement as a pathway to achieving peace in the Middle East. Vladimir Dzhabarov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee said that the Israel-UAE agreement will contribute to normalising the serious situation in the region. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the deal could promote peace and security in the Middle East.

Many Middle Eastern countries also lauded the Israel-UAE peace agreement as a “historic breakthrough”, a diplomatic victory and an important step towards building a peaceful, secure and prosperous Middle East. Following the UAE, another Arab country, Bahrain, also announced a peace agreement with Israel. Recently, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the US and Israel are promoting negotiations with many Arab countries and in the coming time there would be 5 to 6 more Arab countries agreeing to sign peace agreement with Israel. The leaders of the two countries also affirmed that this is a “positive” signal to put aside the past “hostility”, towards a new and better period between Israel and countries in the Arab World.

However, in the opposite direction, the Israel - UAE peace agreement also faced fierce opposition from many countries in the region. Many senior Palestinian officials pointed out that, after what the US and Israel have done to the sovereignty of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, ... the Israel-UAE peace agreement is essentially an extremely sinister in the regional hegemony strategy of the US and Israel. Accordingly, the US and Israel use economic interests and security as a bait to “lure” regional countries into their orbit; thereby, dividing the unity bloc of the Arab world and finally forcing Palestine to accept a “peace scenario” proposed by Washington and Tel Aviv. They also condemned the commitment to “stop sovereign claim over the occupied land” in the peace agreement as a concealment of Israel's plan of invasion. The spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) condemned Israel's deal to normalise relations with the Arab states as “a betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause”. Representatives of Palestinian movements of Fatah and Hamas also declared objection to the accord: “The agreement will not give the Jewish state any legality in the invasion of Palestinian lands. The invader remains the main enemy of the Palestinian people and we will continue the fight against the annexation”. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned that “the UAE would be held responsible in case of an attack on Iran through the Persian Gulf and Iran will not tolerate it”. Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing “extreme concern that the UAE, through its unilateral action, would put an end to the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by the Arab League and supported by the Islamic Cooperation Organisation”. The Israel-UAE peace accord is making very important changes with complicated adverse reactions, making the political and security landscape in the Middle East even more unpredictable.

Public opinion holds that the conflict between Israel and Arab countries, with the Israel-Palestinian conflict being the core, has lasted for decades, causing great suffering for the Arabs and Israeli people. The Israel - UAE peace agreement is a historic one. Stakeholders should be deeply aware and grasp this precious opportunity on the basis of respecting international law, the Charter of the United Nations; independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity; legitimate aspirations of the people; discuss together to find suitable solutions that all parties can accept to resolve disagreements and conflicts to build the Middle East into a region of peace, stability and prosperity.

Senior Colonel DONG VAN DUC - Lieutenant Colonel NGUYEN VIET TAN

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