"Dawn of the new Middle East": Arab states pick their side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Illustration by Nicola March

Some call it betrayal, others a success story, with Trump labelling it as ‘the dawn of the new Middle East.’

Earlier this week, two of the most powerful Gulf states, the UAE and Bahrain, have made the official decision to normalise ties with Israel and recognise it as a legitimate state. This new relationship (also known as the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement) will open up an array of new opportunities for the countries, including trade, tourism, and most recently the first ‘normal’ flight from Israel to the UAE. 

Donald Trump’s son in law, who was on board that flight, has described the UAE deal as having ‘the ability to change the course of the Middle East.’ 

This bold, and according to many commentators ‘historic’ move, means so much for the many players involved. But behind its title, the thing on everyone’s mind is how it will affect the status of Palestine.

The ramifications that this will have for the stability of Palestine, which has been in a long winded conflict over land ownership with Israel, is among the big questions that need to be approached. Palestinian leaders have condemned the new deal, and feel betrayed and insulted that their fellow Arab states have so easily let them down. Although, it should be pointed out that the UAE’s de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan has put a price on the deal, saying that Israel must stop annexation of large parts of the West Bank. Will this request be honoured by Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming years, who surely has big plans to expand Israel much more, which automatically means shrinking Palestine?

For decades upon decades, the entire Middle East has stuck by Palestine as the world witnessed them endure annexation and the ethnic cleansing of its people, culture and history. Apart from the two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, not just the Arab world, but in fact the entire Muslim world have made their allegiance to Palestine and opposition to Israel fairly clear. Pakistan has even prohibited their citizens from entering Israel, as displayed in the Pakistani passport that ‘this passport is valid for all countries in the world except Israel.’ Other countries like Algeria, Lebanon and Libya also do not allow Israeli citizens to enter their country, which indicates many nations are not ready to be civil with Israel until Palestine becomes a sovereign state.

This is why the decisions of UAE and Bahrain may have come as a shock to many.

What made them switch sides after supporting their fellow Arab country Palestine? And why now?

It’s clear to see that the deal benefits both sides. For the first time, the UAE are able to browse weaponry they would only have dreamed of having in the past. Eager Israelis will now have the chance to explore Gulf deserts on their next holiday. And most importantly, it is the first time in a while that Israel is receiving recognition, especially after being left out of the Middle East.

The news of UAE and Bahrain normalising ties with Israel was met enthusiastically by America, where a ceremony to officially recognise this new partnership was held at the White House recently. It is a well known fact that Israel and America share a close bond. In fact, many US political commentators have observed that one cannot reach the position of the President without supporting the actions of Israel.

Since Israel and America are considered brothers, any success for Israel naturally means America will flourish: primarily because of trade, the Israel lobby and a whole lot of funding. It’s also a big personal achievement for Donald Trump, as he’ll now no doubt be labelled as an excellent deal maker. This will further help him in the coming elections.

Trump believes that the new partnerships will result in peace for the Middle East, and will encourage other Arab countries to act similarly towards Israel. However, Morocco recently outwardly refused to normalise ties with Israel, despite the UAE’s actions. So it shows that not everyone is prepared to follow the UAE’s footsteps as quickly Bahrain did.

A recent article from ‘the timesofisrael’, shows dozens of Bahrainis protesting in opposition against the deal their government has made with Israel. Protestors can be heard saying ‘Normalisation is betrayal.’ 

But the atmosphere was somewhat different in the UAE. Young Israelis can be seen conversing with Emiratis online, talking about culture, education and politics. 

It’s still unclear as to whether this deal will remain prosperous, but either way uproar and rebellion, not just from Palestine itself but also pro-Palestine countries, will surely continue to challenge Israel’s actions.