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Ties with Israel

Sunday 16 August 2020, by siawi3


Ties with Israel


Updated 16 Aug 2020

IN the aftermath of the shock announcement of the establishment of relations between Israel and the UAE, there is feverish speculation about which Arab/Muslim country will be next to forge ties with the Zionist state.

Beyond the realm of conjecture, none other than the president of the US has confirmed that this process has begun, and it is a matter of when, not if. The US “believes that more Arab and Muslim countries will follow” the UAE’s lead, reads a White House statement.

Bahrain is believed to be next in line, while Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his Middle East emissary, told American media that “it is an inevitability that Saudi Arabia and Israel will have fully normalised relations. ...” However, Riyadh itself has, till now, kept silent on Abu Dhabi’s latest move.

For Pakistan, the million-dollar question remains how to react to these fast-changing geopolitical realities, especially if most of our Arab brothers decide to cast their lot with Israel. The Foreign Office’s reaction to the UAE-Israel deal has been described as ambiguous. This is to be expected, for the Emiratis are close partners of this country, politically and economically.

The FO has said the deal will have “far-reaching” implications, though it reiterated that this country’s approach will be guided by how the “Palestinians’ rights and aspirations are upheld”. Observers were quick to point out that the language of the statement was vague, as Pakistan had always demanded Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, and that Al Quds be the Palestinian capital.

Beyond generalities, the time is not far when Pakistan will have to take a firm stand on this issue, and if more Gulf Arabs decide to recognise Israel, there will be tremendous pressure on this country from our ‘friends’ in Washington and the Gulf to follow suit.

During the Musharraf era, the idea of establishing ties with Israel was floated, with the then foreign minister meeting his Israeli counterpart in 2005. However, those plans were quickly shelved when the general sensed the public mood here was not ready to accept ties with Tel Aviv.

Now, again there is debate about how to proceed. There should be a thorough discussion on the national level on the pros and cons of establishing ties with Israel. However, a few ground realities must be kept in mind. Any such move should be conditioned on Israel ending its brutal treatment of the Palestinians, and moving back to the pre-1967 borders. Without such assurances, Pakistan would join others in rewarding Israel for its blatant disregard for human rights.

Moreover, if Israel is embraced by the Muslim world without a just resolution to the Palestine question, the Kashmir cause will also suffer, as India will be further emboldened to crush the Kashmiris. Pakistan must make a decision in a democratic manner, guided by its long-standing support for the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.



Israel-UAE deal


Updated 15 Aug 2020

THE peace deal between Israel and the UAE announced on Thursday seemingly came out of the blue. But for those aware of happenings in the Middle East, the relationship between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi had been blossoming behind the scenes for many years.

Thursday’s announcement by US President Donald Trump was only a formal acknowledgement of these clandestine efforts. Especially over the past year or so, efforts towards normalisation had gained pace, with cultural exchanges between the Zionist state and the Gulf sheikhdom, as well as efforts on social and mainstream media, to help pave the way for the establishment of ties.

Also read: Timeline — Israel, UAE deal follows years of failed peace initiatives

While the three main protagonists of this move — the US, Israel and the UAE — have hailed it with fulsome adjectives such as “bold” and “historic”, the Palestinians have been less sanguine. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas termed the deal “disgraceful” while Hamas has described it as a “stab in the back”.

Israel, built on the ruins of Palestine, and the UAE, on the tip of the Gulf, share no geographical borders, so why the rush towards normalisation? Clearly, both these states — leading members of the American axis — share common geostrategic goals, and the welfare of the Palestinians certainly does not seem to be one of them.

Both Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi are at daggers drawn with Tehran, and this alliance will certainly send alarm bells ringing in the latter capital. Moreover, the sheikhs that rule the UAE share a visceral dislike of political Islam — including its leading proponents in the Arab world, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas (the latter being an offshoot of the former).

Israel, on the other hand, has faced off with Hamas in Gaza numerous times, butchering the hapless civilian population in the process. Also, Hamas is a key ally of Iran, which means Israel and the UAE can now openly compare notes in order to confront their respective bętes noires. And of course, Mr Trump will use the deal to show his evangelical voter base that he has added another ally for Israel in the Arab world.

Peace in the Middle East is a goal everyone cherishes. But peace must be based on justice and fair play; otherwise such ‘peace deals’ are fig leaves for capitulation. The Israel-UAE deal is being hailed for stopping the illegal annexation of the West Bank by Tel Aviv. This is a blatant untruth as soon after the deal was announced, Benjamin Netanyahu told the media “there is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty” over the occupied territories.

Can such peace deals ensure the human and national rights of the Palestinians in the form of a viable two-state solution? The Palestinian answer to this can perhaps best be summed up in a tweet by veteran PLO leader Dr Hanan Ashrawi: “May you never be sold out by your ‘friends’.”