Steve August 14, 2020

“HUGE breakthrough today,” crowed Tweety McTreason on
as he announced the new peace deal between Israel and the
United Arab Emirates (UAE). The deal makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state
and the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have diplomatic ties with
Israel. But the new Israel-UAE partnership should fool no one. Though it will
supposedly stave off Israeli annexation of the West Bank and encourage tourism
and trade between both countries, in reality, it is nothing more than a scheme
to give an Arab stamp of approval to Israel’s status quo of land theft, home
demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws, and other abuses
of Palestinian rights.

The deal should be seen in the context of over three years of Trump administration
policies that have tightened Israel’s grip on the Palestinians: moving the U.S.
embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli
territory, and creating a so-called peace plan with no Palestinian participation
or input. While no US administration has successfully brokered a resolution
to Israel’s now 53-year-long occupation, the Trump years have been especially
detrimental to the Palestinian cause. Palestinian leader
Hanan Ashrawi
on Twitter
that with this deal, “Israel got rewarded for not declaring
openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally and persistently since the
beginning of the occupation.” Indeed, with Tweety McTreason at the helm and
son-in-law Jared Kushner as the primary strategist, even concessions for Palestinians
have been done away with. To add insult to injury, while the deal had been couched
in terms of a commitment by Israel to suspend annexation of Palestinian territories,
in his Israeli press conference announcing the deal, Netanyahu
annexation was “still on the table” and that it was something he is
“committed to.”

Among the most brutal aspects of this period for Palestinians have been the
loss of support for their cause in neighboring Arab states. The Arab political
party in Israel, Balad,
that by signing this pact, “the UAE has officially joined Israel
against Palestine, and placed itself in the camp of the enemies of the Palestinian

The UAE has previously held a position consistent with public opinion in Gulf
and Middle East countries that the acceptance of formal diplomatic relations
with Israel should only take place in exchange for a just peace and in accordance
with international law. Back in June, Emirati ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba
penned an
an op-ed
in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, the Israeli equivalent
to USA Today, appealing directly in Hebrew for Israel not to annex the
West Bank. However, by working out an agreement with Trump and Netanyahu to
normalize relations, the country has now made itself Israel’s partner in cementing
de facto annexation and ongoing apartheid.

The UAE’s change from supporting Palestinian dignity and freedom to supporting
Israel’s never-ending occupation is a calculated move by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Zayed, a shrewd Middle East dictator who uses his country’s military and
financial resources to thwart moves towards democracy and respect for human
rights under the guise of fighting Islamic terrorism. His support for Israel
cements his relationship with the Trump administration. Trump has already gone
out of his way to push billions of dollars in arms sales to the UAE, despite
opposition from Congress because of high number of civilian casualties associated
with the use of those weapons in Yemen.

Secretary Pompeo has also defended the UAE from
credible reports
that US weapons sold to the UAE have been transferred in
Yemen to groups linked to Al Qaeda, hardline Salafi militias and Yemeni separatists.
The UAE was also stung by
of secret prisons it had been operating in Yemen where prisoners
were subjected to horrific forms of torture, including “the grill,”
where victims were “tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of
fire.” In Libya, the UAE has been
for violating a 2011 UN Security Council arms embargo by supplying
combat equipment to the LAAF, the armed group commanded by General Khalifa Haftar
with a well-established record of human right abuses. So this deal with Israel
gives the UAE a much-needed veneer of respectability.

But it is impossible to understand the impetus for this deal without putting
it in the context of the ongoing hostilities between all three countries and
Iran. Following the old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,”
in recent years Israel has been negotiating with various Gulf states, including
the UAE, to push back against Iran’s growing influence in the region. As the
communiqué announcing the Israeli-UAE deal
, the US, Israel and the UAE “share a similar outlook regarding
threats in the region.” This dovetails with Trump’s anti-Iran obsession,
which includes withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and his “maximum pressure”
campaign designed to force Iran back to the negotiating table to make a “better
deal.” In announcing the UAE-Israeli pact, Trump
with ridiculous bravado that if he wins the elections, he’ll have
a new deal with Iran within 30 days. Anyone who believes this must be almost
as delusional as Trump.

The fact that this agreement between two Middle East countries was first announced
thousands of miles away in Washington DC shows how it is more about shoring
up Trump’s slumping electoral campaign and improving Netanyahu’s battered image
in Israel than bringing peace to the Middle East. It also shows that Netanyahu
and bin Zayed have a stake in seeing Trump win a second term in the White House.
Instead of pointing out the hollowness of the pact, Joe Biden’s response was
unfortunately to congratulate Israel and the UAE and try to take credit for
the deal. “I personally spent time with leaders of both Israel and the
U.A.E. during our administration, building the case for cooperation and broader
engagement,” he said. “I am gratified by today’s announcement.”

The normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, facilitated by the
US, serves to prop up three repressive leaders – Trump, Netanyahu, and bin Zayed
– and will cause further harm to Palestinians. It is both a shame and a sham.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of
CODEPINK for Peace
, and author of several books, including
Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Ariel Gold is the national co-director and Senior Middle East Policy
Analyst with
CODEPINK for Peace.

Read More