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What just happened with Israel?

Written By: - Date published: 7:21 am, September 16th, 2020 - 40 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, israel, Palestine, uncategorized - Tags:

Just two months before election day, Donald Trump appears to have won a diplomatic coup in the Middle East.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have normalised relations with the state of Israel.

But this latest Arab-Israeli entente is neither a bolt from the blue nor the result of months of delicate shuttle diplomacy by the Trump administration.

Israel and the gulf Arab states began establishing tentative links after the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993. They opened trade missions in each other’s capitals, although several were closed after a surge of Israeli Palestinian violence in the second Intifada, which erupted in 2000.

The chance for progress came, paradoxically, because of Arab alarm over Trump’s effort to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. The Trump plan was heavily tilted toward Israel, essentially giving Netanyahu a green light to annex territory in the occupied West Bank.

For the gulf Arabs, annexation would be a fatal blow to closer ties with Israel. Under the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, Israel would win full recognition from the Arab world only by resolving its conflict with the Palestinians and granting their aspiration for statehood.

It fell to a well-connected diplomat from the United Arab Emirates, Yousaef al-Otaiba, to lay out the choice for Israel. In a column on the front page of a Hebrew-language newspaper, Yediyoth Ahronoth, in June, al-Otaiba as Ambassador to Washington, told the israelis they could have annexation or normalisation – but not both. The Ambassador approached Jared Kushner with the same message. It was received.

The Emiratis had other reasons for moving now. It helped seal their purchase of sophisticated American weapons: F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones and EA-18G Growler jets. Analysts say Bahrain’s move could help that country secure air defense systems from the United States. Interestingly, Qatar has ruled normalisation out for now.

By playing the “normalisation’ card so late in Trump’s term, the UAE and Bahrain are betting Trump will win again, Trump remains Israel’s de facto Ambassador, and Israel can be trusted to keep its word and not keep annexing by stealth anyway. Let’s see how that works out.

These normalisation deals will on one hand prop up Arab authoritarianism and restore the pre-Arab Spring role of the U.S. as a protector of Arab regimes appeasing Israel. But it will also allow Israeli commerce to do business direct with Arab states, which is desperately needed in a recession.

Whether Trump’s team did the spadework or not, this is an electoral gift which he is playing up on television to the hilt.

40 comments on “What just happened with Israel? ”

  1. Sabine 1

    pretty much anyone is thinking that trump 'will win again' one way or another.

    as for this deal? Who knows, more weapons for people who don't need them, more misery for the people that are under permanent curfew and occupation, and i don't think any one really gives a fuck.

  2. Barfly 2

    "Israel can be trusted to keep its word and not keep annexing by stealth anyway."

    Yeah ….nah

    • Andre 2.1

      Bottom line is Israel may stop annexations when the entire West Bank and Golan Heights are internationally recognised as undisputed Israel territory. That will progress slower or faster depending on who is in charge in Israel at any moment, there may be even some tiny temporary reversals along the way if Israelis ever manage to elect someone moderately progressive instead of their usual Morlocks.

      But even after the West Bank and Golan Heights are fully absorbed, the more likely outcome is Israel will still find ways to nibble away at its neighbours.

  3. RedLogix 3

    The bottom line here is Iran. Understanding the ME means keeping the Persian Shi'a/Arabic Shi'ite division line in mind. It’s historically far more important than the rather recent squabbles they’ve had with the modern state of Israel.

    While the US has been involved in brokering this extraordinary deal, the motivation to get the players to the table was simple enough. Americans are done managing the world, and the Americans are especially done managing the ME. They’re going home. Troop rotations have outnumbered permanent deployments in-region for years. The Iraqi deployment is quickly approaching zero. The Syrian deployment is no longer more than a rounding error. Only Afghanistan remains as a meaningful deployment, and it’s one that few Americans want to continue. The naval base in Bahrain and operations center in Qatar only continue existing to service the Afghan deployment.

    From the UAE point of view this is an unmitigated disaster. They (and their fellow Gulf states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar) don’t care what US troops do in the Middle East or how many locals they kill or how many US troops die at the locals’ hands. They simply want the Americans present – both regionally and around the world. So long as the global superpower is active, the Gulf States don’t have to worry about guarding the production, processing, and exporting infrastructure for their oil and natural gas. So long as the Americans are globally engaged and guaranteeing freedom of the seas for all, they know their exports will safely arrive at their customers’ ports.

    Now this is all been taken off the table, and these Gulf states are utterly unable to defend themselves; or more importantly the flow of oil money on which they utterly depend. Along with Saudi, they look to several significant sources of threat.

    Iran for the moment doesn't pose an imminent threat, but it's long term ally Russia remains in the wings, and it's new BFF China has an active strategic program with them. Re-arming Iran with modern weapons would rapidly shift the landscape, and this could be achieved if Xi Xinping simply said yes. This would trigger an existential rearrangement of the strategic pieces on the board overnight.

    The Gulf states and Saudi are not really modern nations, they're medieval dynasties without the GoT theatrics. All of them have internal populations who're deeply oppressed and ripe for disruption.

    And then without the US Navy providing the default security reality, the entire region is wide open to any expeditionary force to sail a few warships into the Gulf under the pretext of 'protecting oil shipments'.

    None of these Arabic states have effective military capacity of their own that's capable of facing down a determined invader, and sitting in the most unstable, historically turbulent region of the world, they're all feeling more than a little vulnerable right now. And this is before we factor in any regional ambitions Turkey might have if they decide expanding northward into the Balkans or Greece is a little too hard for the time being.

    This makes Israel an enticing ally for these Arabic states. Of course there will never be IDF boots on the ground in Mecca, but there is a great deal that the Israeli's can do to assist in terms of intelligence, training, equipment and cyberwar they can do without leaving the office. And before anyone asks, no the Arabic states truly do not care about the Palestinians, never did, never will. What we are seeing here is an opening move in a new post-US global reality; things we took for granted and never imagined possible … will suddenly come to life.

    The next shoe to fall will be some form of arrangement with Saudi.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Re-arming Iran with modern weapons would rapidly shift the landscape, and this could be achieved if Xi Xinping simply said yes.

      I suspect that Iran isn't even asking as they're developing and producing their own modern weapons.

      Just how true either of those articles may be up for debate but, IMO, they'd be close enough.

      And then without the US Navy providing the default security reality, the entire region is wide open to any expeditionary force to sail a few warships into the Gulf under the pretext of 'protecting oil shipments'.

      What we are seeing here is an opening move in a new post-US global reality; things we took for granted and never imagined possible … will suddenly come to life.

      Which is the same reason why I keep saying that we need to build up our own defensive capabilities up to and including developing and producing our own weapons. The world has shown itself to be not as benign as many believe and the US is pulling back its forces as it heads down the same path as Ancient Rome.

      And before anyone asks, no the Arabic states truly do not care about the Palestinians, never did, never will.

      QFT

    • Ad 3.2

      I don't really think the United States is going anywhere from the Arabian Gulf.

      They have pretty big naval and air bases in Bahrain, air bases in Iraq, army, navy and airforce camps in Kuwait, four airports in Oman and two whopper naval ports, whopper-huge air and army bases in Qatar, and still has a town dedicated for US military personnel in Saudi Arabia. Still true they've pretty much got out of Syria and are greatly decreasing in Iraq.

      Further afield there's their bases in Jordan and Israel. They ain't letting those go either.

      If Oman and Jordan and other Arab states come on board with Israel, a pretty strong bulwark against Turkicic and Iranian threat has been formed in the space of a week.

      I don't see anything fast happening with Israel and Saudi Arabia officially, but just getting Saudi Arabia to stay silent on all these Gulf States aligning with Israel is a remarkable step all by itself. Plenty more of those desalination investments to go, as well as intelligence and security deals.

      The US presence in the Middle East survived Obama and trump, and will certainly survive the next guy as well.

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    The Mid East is jam packed with opportunist authoritarians and theocrats all looking for leverage–who do not give one about Palestinians when it comes down to it. The civilian populations of various states may abstractly care, but practical solidarity is what is needed. Open supply lines for international humanitarian aid to Gaza etc.

    Some New Zealanders that get that Gaza is a modern day ‘Warswaw Ghetto’, endangered their lives to try and get medical supplies in with Kia Ora Gaza. The likes of Roger Fowler, Mike Treen and Marama Davidson should be celebrated more.

    It remains obscene that “anti semitism” is invoked over BDS and anyone that challenges the Israeli Apartheid State and Military.

  5. Tricledrown 5

    This is a weapons sales pact the US will finally be able to sell the US$125 billion of military state of the art fighter jets to the UAE after murdering Khashoggi .

    Trump and fellow signatories distracting from their equally corrupt practices.

    • Wayne 5.1

      UAE didn't murder Khashoggi, as you seem to imply. That is a Saudi issue.

      As for these peace arrangements, what they say is that the Palestinians are no longer the key negotiators about themselves. If these deals set a trend, then it may be the Palestinians will finally negotiate, but history says that the Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance.

      If they had negotiated a deal in 1994 (Oslo) or in 2000 (Clinton) they would have got a much better deal than they will ever manage now.

      • swordfish 5.1.1

        but history says that the Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance.

        A mindless repetition of the slogan trotted out by Israeli Apologists everywhere.

        Close analysis of the various negotiations suggests the polar opposite.

  6. swordfish 6

    .
    Norman Finkelstein is generally the sharpest (and most well-informed) analyst of the Arab-Israeli conflict … this is my summary of one of his key insights over recent weeks:

    Crucially, UAE recognition shows Arab States can now Cross the Rubicon and recognise Israel with little if any domestic repercussions.

    30, 40, 50 years ago, the Palestinian cause commanded huge moral popular authority in the Arab World … it held profound symbolic power for ordinary people throughout the Middle East to the extent that Arab leaders genuinely feared the consequences for their Regimes if they betrayed the cause.(it arguably cost Sadat his life, for instance).

    Fast forward to today … the Palestinian cause no longer possesses much moral power at all among Arab people … first & foremost because the Palestinan Authority have degenerated into highly corrupt, financially-dependent collaborators with US-Israel, acting as Israel's de-facto Security Force on the West Bank, heavily implicated in punishing the people of Gaza & suppressing solidarity demonstrations elsewhere. They're essentially self-interested US-Israeli puppets who have entirely tainted all their potential moral authority in the wider Arab World.

    Finkelstein also points out that Israel has already carried out a de-facto annexation of the Palestinian Territories. Under International Law, the most significant feature of an Occupation is its temporary staus … after 53 years of often brutal occupation & the slow, systematic ethnic cleansing of ever-larger areas of the West Bank, you'd now have to call this status-quo a clandestine annexation, albeit with the unwanted Palestinian population still resident amongst the massive influx of illegal Israeli Settlers.

    • Dennis Frank 6.1

      My guess is they watched China get away with it. "Hey, the UN defers to realpolitik! That means states can expand via foreign policy plus hegemony! Let's do this!"

    • RedLogix 6.2

      If the Arab world had ever actually cared about the Palestinian people they might have recognised the legality of the state of Israel, accepted the open flow of refugees from those who wanted to leave, in exchange for a solid lump of compensation from the Jewish state.

      But instead political posturing at the huge expense ordinary Palestinians is what happened instead.

      Well now the Americans have finally stopped getting suckered into the swamp and are leaving, all of a sudden these same Arab states are realising that maybe a strong Israel might be their best friend after all. After all they all have roughly the same purposes in mind, containment of Iran and a resurgent, nationalistic Turkey just over the northern horizon.

      The unspoken player in this drama is China, who desperately wants to neutralise India. For this reason China is running a distraction play in the Himalayas, establishing naval bases in the Indian Ocean, and working hard to build an alliance with Iran. This is motivated primarily by the need to ensure the Indian navy is never strong enough to threat the supertankers shipping oil right past the Indian coast, and longer term to ensure Tibet and India do not build sufficient political and military capacity to re-take the Tibetan plateau.

      But right now the urgent question in the ME is just how close does the Iranian regime want to cuddle up to Xi Xinping? They must know the risks, but have few other options right now.

      • joe90 6.2.1

        If the Arab world had ever actually cared about the Palestinian people

        Arab people do care about the Palestinian people. The totalitarian thugs running Arab countries don't, and they've taken a punt that aligning themselves with Israel will ensure their political survival.

        • Tiger Mountain 6.2.1.1

          joe90, for once, draws attention to a pertinent point.

          Respected activists, citizens, and pundits that know that part of the world have said for years that many of “the people” in the Mid East support the Palestinian cause, but remain thwarted by authoritarian and autocratic leaders and systems.

          There were supply line tunnels for christ sakes from Egypt that were closed. Hundreds of UN Resolutions remain unobserved. It is multi faceted geo politics I guess that has prevented resolution so far.

          There are apparently regular weekly demos outside Mr Netanyahu’s house–“the Crime Minister” so the Apartheid state of Israel does have some opposition forces at least.

        • RedLogix 6.2.1.2

          I didn't say there isn't wide and legitimate support for the Palestinian cause, but anyone with half a brain cell understands that Israel isn't going away.

          This means although the Palestinians drew one of history's many short straws, the only valid question now is how to minimise their suffering, particularly in Gaza, and build an alternative future that doesn't involve flushing the Jews back into the sea. This is a problem that some hard headed negotiation and money can solve. And the Jewish state has plenty of both. Recognising the Israeli state is the first and promising step on the path to reconciliation.

          Anything else is just posturing for narrow political effects.

          • Wayne 6.2.1.2.1

            As Red Logix points out, there may be a large percentage popular support for Palestine, but the depth of it has weakened. Not many are prepared to do much to actually support the Palestinians.

            Palestine needs to wake up to this reality and deal on the basis of fact, not sentiment.

            Having been to Israel on a number of occasions, it is clear that Israel is much stronger and more secure than it was a few decades ago. It has less interaction with Palestine than previously and is less threatened by them.

      • Ad 6.2.2

        China certainly has big commercial and infrastructure relationships with Iran, but it spreads its risks concerning Middle Eastern oil much broader than Iran. Where it gets its oil from as of last year:

        1. Saudi Arabia: US$40.1 billion (16.8% of China’s total imported crude oil)
        2. Russia: $36.5 billion (15.3%)
        3. Iraq: $23.7 billion (9.9%)
        4. Angola: $22.7 billion (9.5%)
        5. Brazil: $18.5 billion (7.8%)
        6. Oman: $16.4 billion (6.9%)
        7. Kuwait: $10.8 billion (4.5%)
        8. United Arab Emirates: $7.3 billion (3.1%)
        9. Iran: $7.1 billion (3%)

        China's Saudi relationship is pretty strong after 30 years of diplomatic ties that they celebrated this year. Won't supplant the US-Saudi relationship and has no need to. China is pretty good at walking and chewing gum at the same time in this region.

        • RedLogix 6.2.2.1

          Then again you get $400b deals like this one:

          China, sensing America’s internal political difficulties amidst social justice protests and a poor COVID-19 response, is taking off the gloves: Beijing is said to be in the final stages of approving a $400 billion economic and security deal with Tehran. In addition to massive infrastructure investments, the agreement envisions closer cooperation on defense and intelligence sharing, and is rumored to include discounts for Iranian oil. If finalized, the PRC would gain massive influence in this geopolitically critical region, and simultaneously throw a lifeline to the embattled Mullah Regime.

        • RedLogix 6.2.2.2

          Also India controls the Andaman Islands, right at the entrance of the Malacca Straits, where almost all that oil you list must pass through. And the PLAN at present has no ability to prevent an Indian blockade of their oil supply.

          Just to put this into perspective China imports around 12m barrels a day and the typical supertanker runs to about 1.2m barrels. That's something in the order of 9 tankers that have to arrive into Shanghai every damned day. It's a two week trip from the Gulf, so there is a string of about 130 tankers making the journey all the time, plus the same number making the trip back.

          Disrupting this essential traffic would bring China to it's knees within a month or so. Considering that supertankers have been hijacked by Somalis in speedboats it's a trivial task to run a blockade on them, and the Chinese are very aware of this vulnerability.

  7. Byd0nz 7

    The bottom line is Israel is an illegal state gifted to them by the bullshit of Balfour and Jewish terrorism of the time.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      The 'gift' happened under the mandate of the newly arisen UN and was fully against one of its stated purposes of protecting nations.

  8. greywarshark 8

    What a tangled web. Very educational input about this post.

    • Tiger Mountain 8.1

      Yes indeed greywarshark. Until announced otherwise, it seems the US will still be multi billion bankrolling, and supplying arms and hi-tech to Israel.

      In all my years of political involvement the plight of Palestinians is one of the longest running awful situations that remains unresolved.

  9. McFlock 9

    This is also a piece of good news for Bibi, who has his own internal problems in Israel. So he'll lift the accelerator and let the slow genocide coast along for a bit.

  10. Siobhan 10

    It will be interesting to see how things pan out under a Harris administration*. Looking at her history and public statements it certainly doesn't bode well for the Palestinians.

    https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/views-on-israel-of-u-s-presidential-candidates-2020-kamala-harris

    * “A Harris administration, together with Joe Biden as the president of the United States,”…her words.

    https://nypost.com/2020/09/15/kamala-harris-accidentally-touts-plan-under-harris-administration/

  11. Peter 11

    What just happened with Israel? The Greatest President of All Time just created peace forever in the Middle East.

    He might not have said exactly that but that's how it'll go. Next step? peace in the USA!

  12. Austringer 12

    Meet this new deal, is it not the same with the old capitalist exploiters deal, you agree talk and we will call it progress,or should we America call it "A MORE PROTECTIVE DEAL" for our friends.

  13. Stuart Munro 13

    Well I wouldn't read too much into it. The UAE, if it wishes to preserve its independence, cannot be truly in the pocket of any of the major powers in the region. Saudi, a traditional link, will likely remain truculent until their youthful de facto monarch no longer finds cutting up outspoken citizens entertaining – but he cannot readily deny religious access without losing status, so the door does not close entirely on the UAE. The Covid downturn is going to hit all the smaller countries in the region fairly hard – a few points in trade with Israel will soften the blow and decrease the severity of civil unrest.

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