.
W

hile the recent announcement of the Abraham Accord by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel to normalize relations is lauded as a diplomatic breakthrough, it has the potential to further destabilize the Middle East. The deal marks a key moment in Middle East and North African (MENA) geopolitics and adds to increasing evidence of a gradual shift in interest over the last decade from the Palestinian cause towards countering Iranian influence. The Palestine and Iran issues are interconnected, and the ultimate shift in interest will have negative implications in the long run for Palestinians and regional peace, particularly as geopolitical competition in the region drives decision making towards conflict.

The Abraham Accord marks the beginning of a process that normalizes Israel-UAE relations in exchange for an end to annexation plans in the West Bank. It is the result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy to build relationships with Gulf states and aims to bring the two countries together in areas of trade, tourism, intelligence, security, and other policy areas.

The two countries have cooperated across many of these policy areas through backchannels for over a decade. The deal is a win for Israel, the UAE, and the U.S., but a setback for long-term peace prospects in the region. It further harms the Palestinian cause, as the deal appears to only momentarily prevent annexation plans, according to statements by Netanyahu. These developments ultimately reflect a downward spiral in regional dynamics dating back to the Arab Spring.

In December 2010, when massive pro-democracy protests rocked the region and overthrew long-lasting autocrats in places like Libya and Egypt, the Arab Spring resulted in Gulf state efforts to ensure stability at home by suppressing political dissent and countering perceived Iranian influence. The realignment of UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain’s priorities played well with Netanyahu’s approach to regional diplomacy, which is focused on sidestepping Palestinians by establishing ties with their Gulf state supporters.

With the onset of popular calls for democratic rule and with the United States finalizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in an attempt to ease hostilities, Gulf state leaders assessed the opportunity risk of cooperating with a bastion of anti-Iran and anti-Islamist sentiment in Israel as a way to sustain their rule. The U.S. shift in approach to Iran with the eventual signing of the JCPOA under the Obama administration, also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal,” has pushed Gulf states towards Israel. The Palestinian cause has lost attention across the Gulf states for these reasons as a result of increased cooperation between Israel and Arab governments.  

Ultimately, the Abraham Accord highlights an unfortunate development that will heavily impact the MENA region. It reflects a shift of interests from the Palestinian cause to countering Iranian influence, which is negatively affecting security dynamics in the region. These issues are interconnected due to their relationship to regional security dynamics and alliances.

For the Palestinians, this deal may mark the end of their influence to prevent future annexation and significantly harms the possibility of a two-state solution. The UAE’s disinterest in consulting with Palestinian authorities, along with reports of Sudan, Bahrain, and Oman’s interest in normalization, is reflective of increasing indifference to the plight of the Palestinian people. It also depicts the regional shift in interests towards countering Iran.

Although poor leadership and an inability to unite around a common platform have plagued Palestinian leadership for decades, the regional shifts in the last decade are equally as relevant, as highlighted in Netanyahu’s own post-deal rhetoric of “strength attracts and weakness repels.”

Israel’s recent diplomatic success and U.S. influence personifies this realpolitik sentiment. Israel’s consistent anti-Iran position and U.S. weapons sales to Gulf states, sometimes and recently to Israel’s own public dismay, promotes a strategy that counters a common regional foe by establishing a bloc that supports a U.S. pressure campaign against Iran. In this regard, the Palestinians lose out due to the threat from Iran and U.S. support. Added pressure from the current U.S. administration pushes the issue further, enticing Gulf leaders with weapons sales and improved relations with a visibly prominent Israel.

Rather than support a strategy that harms Palestinians and regional stability, regional leaders should instead apply an inclusive diplomatic approach that considers the region’s diverse range of voices and opinions. This means including Palestinian authorities in discussions regarding impending normalization between Israel and Gulf states, as well as dialogue that promotes constructive normalization and cooperation to avoid conflict. Increased diplomatic cooperation is important but cannot leave Palestinians in the dark.

This also includes a shift in U.S. policy towards constructive diplomacy focused on uniting the region and the re-adoption of the JCPOA to temper Iranian actions. Both of these approaches can help to not only achieve a fair peace for the Palestinians, but also temper divisions in the region that can lead to conflict. Gulf state unity on the Israel-Palestine front can prevent an uptick of aggression against Iran that can cause conflict if coupled with de-escalatory diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran.

Such changes will only be achieved under new leadership in the United States, alongside persistent pressure from the P5+1 and European Union against annexation and in support of the JCPOA. This group, led by the United States, can successfully pressure Gulf states to support constructive diplomacy that avoids persistent hardline Israeli approaches to the Palestinian issue and Iran. Unfortunately, the U.S. and Israel appear to be pressuring Palestinian capitulation by subverting their influence over their allies in the Gulf, which will harm their ability to achieve a fair deal for autonomy and build an increasingly threatening bloc against an already hostile and sporadic Iran.

The Abraham Accord is a watershed moment that will further sow division in the MENA region as Gulf states shift allegiance from the Palestinians to Israel and is a result of an aggressive U.S. pressure campaign against Iran. As Palestinian relevance decreases, Gulf states increasingly become aligned with Israel, which ultimately fuels anti-Iran sentiment that can lead to conflict. The U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran is driving this dynamic without attempting to mitigate for potential hostilities in the region. The Accord is a byproduct of this strategy and highlights the malign use of diplomacy for the purpose of subverting Iran, which will ultimately have destabilizing effects across the region.

About
Alexander J. Langlois
:
Alexander Langlois has years of experience working for NGOs on policy analysis, research, and program management related to governance, conflict, and stabilization. Today, he works as a researcher in the U.S.-Sudan Initiative to promote peace in Sudan.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Does the Abraham Accord Bring Genuine Diplomatic Prospects?

Photo via John T. Via Unsplash.

August 24, 2020

W

hile the recent announcement of the Abraham Accord by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel to normalize relations is lauded as a diplomatic breakthrough, it has the potential to further destabilize the Middle East. The deal marks a key moment in Middle East and North African (MENA) geopolitics and adds to increasing evidence of a gradual shift in interest over the last decade from the Palestinian cause towards countering Iranian influence. The Palestine and Iran issues are interconnected, and the ultimate shift in interest will have negative implications in the long run for Palestinians and regional peace, particularly as geopolitical competition in the region drives decision making towards conflict.

The Abraham Accord marks the beginning of a process that normalizes Israel-UAE relations in exchange for an end to annexation plans in the West Bank. It is the result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy to build relationships with Gulf states and aims to bring the two countries together in areas of trade, tourism, intelligence, security, and other policy areas.

The two countries have cooperated across many of these policy areas through backchannels for over a decade. The deal is a win for Israel, the UAE, and the U.S., but a setback for long-term peace prospects in the region. It further harms the Palestinian cause, as the deal appears to only momentarily prevent annexation plans, according to statements by Netanyahu. These developments ultimately reflect a downward spiral in regional dynamics dating back to the Arab Spring.

In December 2010, when massive pro-democracy protests rocked the region and overthrew long-lasting autocrats in places like Libya and Egypt, the Arab Spring resulted in Gulf state efforts to ensure stability at home by suppressing political dissent and countering perceived Iranian influence. The realignment of UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain’s priorities played well with Netanyahu’s approach to regional diplomacy, which is focused on sidestepping Palestinians by establishing ties with their Gulf state supporters.

With the onset of popular calls for democratic rule and with the United States finalizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in an attempt to ease hostilities, Gulf state leaders assessed the opportunity risk of cooperating with a bastion of anti-Iran and anti-Islamist sentiment in Israel as a way to sustain their rule. The U.S. shift in approach to Iran with the eventual signing of the JCPOA under the Obama administration, also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal,” has pushed Gulf states towards Israel. The Palestinian cause has lost attention across the Gulf states for these reasons as a result of increased cooperation between Israel and Arab governments.  

Ultimately, the Abraham Accord highlights an unfortunate development that will heavily impact the MENA region. It reflects a shift of interests from the Palestinian cause to countering Iranian influence, which is negatively affecting security dynamics in the region. These issues are interconnected due to their relationship to regional security dynamics and alliances.

For the Palestinians, this deal may mark the end of their influence to prevent future annexation and significantly harms the possibility of a two-state solution. The UAE’s disinterest in consulting with Palestinian authorities, along with reports of Sudan, Bahrain, and Oman’s interest in normalization, is reflective of increasing indifference to the plight of the Palestinian people. It also depicts the regional shift in interests towards countering Iran.

Although poor leadership and an inability to unite around a common platform have plagued Palestinian leadership for decades, the regional shifts in the last decade are equally as relevant, as highlighted in Netanyahu’s own post-deal rhetoric of “strength attracts and weakness repels.”

Israel’s recent diplomatic success and U.S. influence personifies this realpolitik sentiment. Israel’s consistent anti-Iran position and U.S. weapons sales to Gulf states, sometimes and recently to Israel’s own public dismay, promotes a strategy that counters a common regional foe by establishing a bloc that supports a U.S. pressure campaign against Iran. In this regard, the Palestinians lose out due to the threat from Iran and U.S. support. Added pressure from the current U.S. administration pushes the issue further, enticing Gulf leaders with weapons sales and improved relations with a visibly prominent Israel.

Rather than support a strategy that harms Palestinians and regional stability, regional leaders should instead apply an inclusive diplomatic approach that considers the region’s diverse range of voices and opinions. This means including Palestinian authorities in discussions regarding impending normalization between Israel and Gulf states, as well as dialogue that promotes constructive normalization and cooperation to avoid conflict. Increased diplomatic cooperation is important but cannot leave Palestinians in the dark.

This also includes a shift in U.S. policy towards constructive diplomacy focused on uniting the region and the re-adoption of the JCPOA to temper Iranian actions. Both of these approaches can help to not only achieve a fair peace for the Palestinians, but also temper divisions in the region that can lead to conflict. Gulf state unity on the Israel-Palestine front can prevent an uptick of aggression against Iran that can cause conflict if coupled with de-escalatory diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran.

Such changes will only be achieved under new leadership in the United States, alongside persistent pressure from the P5+1 and European Union against annexation and in support of the JCPOA. This group, led by the United States, can successfully pressure Gulf states to support constructive diplomacy that avoids persistent hardline Israeli approaches to the Palestinian issue and Iran. Unfortunately, the U.S. and Israel appear to be pressuring Palestinian capitulation by subverting their influence over their allies in the Gulf, which will harm their ability to achieve a fair deal for autonomy and build an increasingly threatening bloc against an already hostile and sporadic Iran.

The Abraham Accord is a watershed moment that will further sow division in the MENA region as Gulf states shift allegiance from the Palestinians to Israel and is a result of an aggressive U.S. pressure campaign against Iran. As Palestinian relevance decreases, Gulf states increasingly become aligned with Israel, which ultimately fuels anti-Iran sentiment that can lead to conflict. The U.S. maximum pressure campaign against Iran is driving this dynamic without attempting to mitigate for potential hostilities in the region. The Accord is a byproduct of this strategy and highlights the malign use of diplomacy for the purpose of subverting Iran, which will ultimately have destabilizing effects across the region.

About
Alexander J. Langlois
:
Alexander Langlois has years of experience working for NGOs on policy analysis, research, and program management related to governance, conflict, and stabilization. Today, he works as a researcher in the U.S.-Sudan Initiative to promote peace in Sudan.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.