An Aug. 15th analysis of the UAE-Israel peace deal by Seth Frantzman, the Jerusalem Post’s Mid-East Affairs Editor, titled “Iran, Turkey, Ben Rhodes, Tlaib united in criticism of UAE-Israel deal”, noted the “the paucity of voices opposing the agreement”:
Iran’s regime has led the charge in opposing bilateral peaceful relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It has been joined by Turkey, which threatened to sever relations with Abu Dhabi, and a few other voices, such as former deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, who played a role in the Obama administration
The paucity of voices opposing the agreement have brought together an increasingly small chorus that is obsessively critical of Israel or which is aligned with the increasing extremism of Ankara and the regime in Tehran.
In the US, Rhodes and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were some of the only high-profile voices that appeared critical of the peaceful connection.
The main voices against the UAE-Israel agreement were thus a small collection of countries and groups. Iran and Turkey were the loudest countries against the agreement, while Iran’s affiliates in Iraq and among Turkey’s allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, also slammed the deal.
Support for UAE-Israel peace deal has been so widespread that it was applauded not only by the UN, the EU, the UK, Egypt, Bahrain and Oman, and leaders of US Democratic Party, but by voices almost always opposed to policies of the Trump and Netanyahu governments, including Yachad UK, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.
However, joining Iran, Turkey, Rhodes and Tlaib in condemning the deal was the Guardian, in an official editorial in The Observer (Guardian sister site), “The Observer view on the ‘historic’ Middle East breakthrough”.
The editorial begins by complaining that any “rapprochement built on the ruins of Palestinian hopes of an independent state is suspect and fragile” and avering that the “flawed deal may yet come to be seen as a historic mistake”.
Then, after several paragraphs devoted to undermining the significance of the peace deal – which included Israel’s agreement not to go ahead with ‘annexation’ – by noting the putatively flawed motivations of those parties (the US, Israel and UAE) responsible it, the editorial pivots to the most revealing sentence:
It is worth noting that the various motivations of these three individuals appear to have little or nothing to do with resolving the central issue at the heart of the decades-old conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours – the illegal occupation and seizure of Palestinian land. Their self-exculpatory defence – that the UAE agreed to normalise relations in exchange for a halt to the West Bank annexation plans – looks highly questionable.
The UAE-Israel peace deal in fact, to a large degree, fatally undermines the assumption, by the Guardian and, to be fair, most MSM outlets and policy ‘experts’, that “the central issue at the heart of the decades-old conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors” is the occupation.
Unable to bear the fact that the underlying assumption that’s guided their editorial position on the conflict has just been discredited by Israeli peace with UAE (one that may be followed by similar treaties with Oman and Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco), the Guardian decided, instead of reflecting on the flaws of their thinking, to stubbornly stick to their decades-old narrative.
Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer put it well:
This should be a day of honest reckoning for the Israeli left, the “international community” and the entire peace process industry. For 30 years they’ve been saying Israel will have relations with the Arab world only at the price of a Palestinian state. The Arab world doesnt care
— Anshel Pfeffer אנשיל פפר (@AnshelPfeffer) August 13, 2020
The UAE-Israel deal has elicited so much praise in part because it seems to signify the beginning of the end to over seven decades of blind Arab hatred towards the Jewish state – enmity that, though dishonestly justified by the occupation, predated 1967 and even 1948, and was never really about the Palestinians. Though citizens of Arab states continue to harbor deeply antisemitic beliefs, the Palestinian issue as such, based on surveys, appears to far less important to younger generations than economic and social challenges.
Leaders of these states have grown weary of the feuding and ineffectual Palestinian leadership, and of having to feign solidarity with the Palestinian cause. They appear to have increasingly concluded that it makes little sense to delay recognition of Israel until the day – likely far in the future – when there’s Israeli-Palestinian peace, when the tangible strategic and economic benefits of closer ties to Jerusalem can be reaped today.
The road to Israeli-Arab peace does not, as former US Secretary of State James Baker once claimed, run through Jerusalem, but, rather, through Abu Dhabi, Khartoum, Rabat, Muscat, and Manama. The Guardian will continue to claim the former, and the Arab world will continue not to care.