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Normalization with Israel to provide Gulf states cover against growing influence of Iran

The unveiling of the peace agreements between the state of Israel and the Gulf States of UAE and Bahrain depicts is an example of the changing political times, will Pakistan change with them?

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The unveiling of the peace agreements between the state of Israel and the Gulf States of UAE and Bahrain depicts a classic example of Realist notions. Realism in political arena calls for never subordinating national interest to some kind of emotional and irrational morals and principles. On August 13th, President Trump announced the so called Abraham Accord mediated by the US, under which UAE extended recognition to Israel followed by Bahrain on September 12th, both formalised on September 15th.

The agreements have paved the way for other Muslim and Arab nations to follow suit on the one hand, while irking Palestinians and its sympathizers on the other. Political order in the Middle East is rapidly changing, requiring countries within and outside the region to realign their policies.

Normalizations to divert attention from struggling economies

Israel’s peaceful and diplomatic outreach to the Gulf countries at this point of time carries great political significance for all the parties involved. Apart from the normalization of relations, the deals would help divert the attention of the masses from the deep political and economic crises these Middle Eastern states and the US are laden with.

Read more: Op-ed: The UAE-Israel Abraham Accord has varied implications for stakeholders

As far as the Gulf countries are concerned, these agreements will provide them a security cover against the growing influence of Iran in the region. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran emerged as a regional power to be reckoned with. A Shia majority state, it aimed to capitalize on the revolution and spread it throughout the Middle East, thus extending its sphere of influence.

It was for this reason that Iran has been flexing its muscles in almost all of the crises in the region since then. Opposed to the Iranian actions have been the other Sunni Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, UAE and their allies, who tried their best to contain Iran, but failed to do so.

Both these powers are pitched against one another in the region, providing support and assistance to the opposing parties in the conflicts like those in Syria, Yemen and Libya etc. in an attempt to outdo one another in the struggle for power and influence. Consequently, an apparent power equilibrium is maintained between the two, thus making it hard for either to emerge as the sole dominant power in the region.

The deals reached between Israel and the Gulf states under the auspices of the US, are hailed by the Trump administration as the landmark achievements for establishing peace in the Middle East

Making peace with Israel, the Sunni Gulf countries of UAE and Bahrain expect to get an upper hand over Iran and hence emerge as the victors in this power struggle. These states are faced with threats from growing Iranian influence in the region. By extending recognition to and normalization of relations with Israel, they would get many security and economic benefits.

Gulf States new allies against Iran

Apart from receiving state of the art weaponry, these states would become the natural allies of Israel against Iran­- which is perceived as an existential threat to the Jewish state. Besides, the deals would prove to be an impetus to the economic activities between these states, especially to the UAE, which is a business hub in the Middle East.

The peace agreements are also very crucial for the Jewish state in general and for Netanyahu’s government in particular. Since the Yum Kippur war of 1973 fought between the Arabs and the Jews, these deals are described as the watershed moment for the Israeli state.

Read more: The UAE-Israel deal’s historicity is in the fine print

Getting recognition from two of the most important Gulf States, Israel’s worth in international political milieu has increased multi-fold on the one hand. While on the other, they made a deep dent in the Muslim world as many other Muslim states might be in a queue to extend recognition to the Jewish state sooner or later.

For Netanyahu, the timing of the deals was worth it. Currently he and his government is under fire due to domestic political issues and rampant corruption in the country. He himself is faced with heavy corruption charges creating hurdles for his leadership.

The deals may provide him a way out of these challenges. Throughout the country people are very jubilant, hailing these agreements as the greatest achievements of the government. Hence, they have, to a greater extent, diverted the attention of the masses from domestic issues, turning down pressure on Netanyahu’s government.

The last 70 year are witnessed to the fact that with no communication and formal relations between Israel and the Muslim states, the issue only deepened and the sufferings of the Palestinians increased

Last but not the least, through these agreements the Trump administration has its own axe to grind. The deals reached between Israel and the Gulf states under the auspices of the US, are hailed by the Trump administration as the landmark achievements for establishing peace in the Middle East.

Since his ascent to power in 2016, president Trump embarked upon many plans to resolve the Palestinian issue once and for all but to no avail. From declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to the notorious ‘Middle East Peace Plan’ all his efforts were rejected by the Palestinians and other Muslim states and were met with severe criticism from various global quarters. But the recent deals are considered as his biggest achievements on the foreign policy front so far.

Read more: Trump’s Middle East peace plan: Deceit of the century?

They may greatly help Trump in a bid for his re-election as the president of the US, scheduled in a two month time. The Jewish population makes 3-5 percent of the total US population but they control more than 70 percent of the US economy, thus making their role highly instrumental in the king-making. Trump’s efforts in establishing peace between Israel and the Gulf countries are greatly appreciated by the Jewish quarters in the US.

Owing to the shift in the political order in the Middle East many Muslim states, like Pakistan, are mainly left with two options: either to extend recognition to the state of Israel or wait until Israel agrees to the two-state solution premising on the pre-1967 borders. As far as Pakistan’s official stand is concerned, it will not extend recognition to Israel unless there is a just solution of the issue in place, according to the UNSC resolutions and the will of the Palestinian population. However, it should be the other way around.

The conflict-ridden and war-ravaged Middle East needs to do away with the politics of confrontation and embark upon those of consensus and cooperation

Being the only nuclear power in the Muslim world, Pakistan carries great significance for the world in general and for Israel in particular. The latter would always look towards Pakistan’s acceptance even if the rest of the 56 Islamic states recognize it. By extending recognition to the state of Israel, Pakistan can play an instrumental role in furthering the Palestinian cause.

It will be in a better position to formally present its proposal for peaceful resolution of the issue and implement the idea of two-states. Normalization of relations would be the first step in the confidence building measures between the two states. Only then Pakistan would be able to convince Israel for amicable resolution of the conflict just like it did the US and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Read more: UAE-Israel deal a gamble for Palestinian peace: can the UAE succeed where others have failed?

Bridging the communication gap is foremost in a conflict resolution process. The last 70 year are witnessed to the fact that with no communication and formal relations between Israel and the Muslim states, the issue only deepened and the sufferings of the Palestinians increased.

War-ravaged Middle East needs to try diplomacy

As it is an established fact the political problems require only political solutions. The conflict-ridden and war-ravaged Middle East needs to do away with the politics of confrontation and embark upon those of consensus and cooperation. The same goes for the countries outside this region as well.

History is evident that the use of force and the policies of militarism have never been successful in resolving political disputes, especcialy in the Gulf states. Furthermore, national interest reigns supreme in international political arena. The rapidly changing scenarios require Pakistan to revisit its policies and extend recognition to Israel.

Read more: OIC rejects Trump’s Middle East peace plan

By doing so, it would not only be able to fight for the Palestinian cause from a more formal and convincing position, but also receive many socio-economic and technological benefits from Israel, thus doing away with the over-dependence on the hypocritical brotherhoods.

Muhammad Tayyab has been a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of International Relations, University of Peshawar. He is pursuing his M.Phil degree from the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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