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October 26, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9610

Emirati Analyst: Strategic Developments, Chiefly The Iranian Threat, Pushed Arabs To Normalize With Israel; More Arab States Are Likely To Follow Suit

October 26, 2021
Iran, United Arab Emirates | Special Dispatch No. 9610

In an October 6, 2021 article on the liberal Arab news website Elpah.com, Emirati researcher and political analyst Dr. Salem Al-Ketbi wrote that the Palestinian cause is still a prominent concern for the Arab world, but, due to strategic changes in the recent years, especially the Iranian threat, new approaches have emerged in the region to promoting this cause. The Abraham Accords for normalization with Israel, led by the UAE, which contain potential benefits for the Palestinian cause, for the Arab countries and peoples and for the Israeli people, are the best living example of this, he said. Al-Ketbi expressed optimism that more Arab countries will join these agreements, given Israel's determination to make peace with the Arabs, as well as the positive shift in the Arab position on normalization with Israel. However, he stressed that the ball is in Israel's court, and urged it to resist escalation vis-à-vis the Palestinians and to persuade the Arab world to take the Abraham Accords to the next level by seeking to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians once and for all. 


Salem Al-Ketbi (Source: Middle-east-online.com)

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]

"A decade ago, all the Arab states were in agreement that the Palestinian issue was the main cause of instability in the region. This is still true, for course, because no just and final solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been achieved. But the threats to the security and stability of the region are now numerous and diverse, mainly the threat posed by the terror organizations and by the spread of militias supported by [various] regional countries, [countries] which plan to expand their control at the expense of Arab national security. Iran is the chief of these countries that support chaos and conflict in [other] states, such as Yemen and Lebanon, not to mention its intervention in other places, like Syria and Iraq. Until a decade ago, the Arab nation states did not face an existential threat, like the threat that has faced them since chaos and upheavals swept many of them in 2011 [i.e., with the advent of the Arab Spring]. Therefore, in the period [since 2011], their top priority has been the fear and concern over the indirect effects of the collapse of Arab nation states. [hence,] defending the states and their unity gained a significant place on [the agenda of] the Arab capitals…

"The above does not mean that there is waning interest in the Palestinian cause, which is still felt to be the most central cause of the Arab regimes and peoples… But this prominence does not rule out the emergence of alternative approaches to dealing with this cause, [involving] new tools and perspectives, instead of the ones that dominated Arab-Israeli relations for many decades. 

The Abraham Accords, signed last year by several Arab states, led by the UAE, are a living example of a strategic and creative alternative to the futile efforts that were invested in the Israeli-Arab relations since the signing of the last peace agreement between the Arabs and Israel [i.e., the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan]. It comes as no surprise that this alternative was proposed by the UAE, for several reasons, chief of them being that the UAE is an unusual country that always thinks of the future in a proactive manner. This has led it to many achievements in development, making it an inspiring role model in terms of capitalizing on natural and human resources. It also succeeded – despite the situation in the world amid the Covid-19 pandemic – to take a qualitative leap towards the achievement of its competitive goals, ranking 10th on the World Competitiveness Index for 2021.

The important thing is the future: where are Arab-Israeli relations headed? Will the Abraham Accords continue on their course, as some observers assess, myself among them? Or will the peace train stop at the Rabat station [i.e., in Morocco]? It can be said without exaggeration that there are several reasons to be optimistic regarding the future of the Abraham peace accords in the region, [first and foremost] because Israel is displaying clear political determination to widen this track and advance on it, and is actively seeking to sign peace agreements with additional Arab capitals. But for this effort to succeed… [Israel] must be careful not to fall into the trap of escalation and of creating tensions vis-à-vis the Palestinian side. That is the opposite track [from the Abraham Accords], which some Palestinian elements and non-Arab states we are all familiar with are pushing for.

There are also Arab capitals that regard the track taken by the UAE and by other Arab countries and their peoples as the more realistic option, given the joint strategic benefits it holds for the Palestinian cause, the Arab countries and peoples and the Israeli people, in equal measure. I refer to thawing the freeze that characterized [Israeli-Arab] relations for long periods of conflict and to ushering in an era of building trust and cooperation, beneficial for all sides in all areas.

Many strategic changes push for peace between the Arabs and Israel, chief of them the new challenges facing Arab national security – both due to the growing power of certain regional forces and their ambition to expand and to threaten the sovereignty of some Arab countries, as well as the shift in certain regional equations… as a result of the waning involvement of the U.S. in the Middle East.

Despite all this, I cannot claim that the normalization between the Arabs and Israel has become a complete Arab consensus. However, despite the significant differences in the approach to this issue between the official echelon and the people [in the Arab countries], there is no denying that a positive shift has occurred in this approach -- [a shift] towards making peace and freeing [ourselves] to curb the more urgent sources of danger. 

None of this detracts from the centrality of the Palestinian cause or from its importance, in any way. The ball often seems to be in Israel's court, assuming that the [Israeli] decision makers will pull the rug out from under those who trade in this cause and provide the Arab officials with a convincing reason to proceed to the next stage of the Abraham Accords by reexamining the Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian people on the one hand, and pushing to find ways to finally resolve and settle the conflict with the Palestinians, on the other."

 

[1] Elaph.com, October 6, 2021.

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