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The Abraham Accords: Change in Palestine’s stance in the new Arab-Israeli Peace Deal

Swachita Ravi,

Research Intern,

Internationalism.


Adrija Ghosh,

Research Member,

Internationalism.


A Brief History of the Conflict Between Israel And Palestine

The Middle-East has been one of the most troubled regions of the world, especially since 1945. It comprises of Egypt, Oman, Lebanon, Iraq Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Arabs are dominant in most of these states, except in Turkey and Iran. The Jewish state of Israel, which was carved out of Palestine, by United Nations in 1948, is also a part of this region. It was the creation of Israel out of the Arabic nation of Palestine which led to a severe conflict between the Arabs and the Jews.

Though the current political dispute began in the 19th century, both the Jews and Arabs date their claims to the land back a couple of thousand years. The Arab attempt to reclaim Israel as Palestine led to the Arab-Israeli wars, which is a series of military conflicts between Israel and various Arab forces from 1948 onwards. In 1948, on the day of creation of Israel, the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq invaded Israel, marking the beginning of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The nascent Israeli Defense Force repulsed the Arab nations from part of the occupied territories, thus extending its borders beyond the original UNSCOP partition between the two nations. By December 1948, Israel controlled most of the portions given to Palestine to the west of Jordon River. The Arabs lost more territories in its successive attempts to invade Israel. The Suez War of 1956, the Six-Day War in 1967, 1973 Yom Kippur War were the four major wars fought between Israel and Palestine. It was these wars which divided the region into three parts namely the State of Israel, Gaza Strip and West Bank. After the 1967 war, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank which consisted of a significant number of Palestinian populations came under Israel’s control. Presently, there exists no formal state of Palestine, however, only the Gaza Strip is nominally controlled by the ‘Palestinian Authority.’

The Arab-Israeli peace process which started around the mid-1970s aiming to bring about reconciliation between these two war-ridden nations has failed to bring about long-lasting peace even today.

Role of the USA in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The United States was the first nation to recognize the sovereignty of Israel in 1948 and has been an active part of the Arab-Israeli conflict because of its vested interest in both of the nations. From 1967 onwards USA’s approach in this conflict became increasingly ‘pro- Israel.’ It has, over the years, sent millions of dollars to Israel as financial and military aid. It should also be noted that the USA, also, has a strong intention to maintain good relations with the Middle-East due of its strategic involvement in several Middle-Eastern affairs. However, the Arab-US ties deteriorated significantly in the latter half of the 19th century when the US foreign policy indicated strong sympathies for the Israeli cause. For instance, the US President Bill Clinton on coming to power brought forth the ‘Israel first policy’ where it was declared that the chief aim of USA’s foreign policy would be to keep Israel strong. Besides, for decades, the United States has used its veto power as a permanent member of the UNSC to block resolutions censuring Israel. Since 1980, the United States has only once allowed the Security Council to condemn Israel for its settlement construction, in late 2016, when the outgoing Obama administration abstained from a vote on the matter. USA’s strong Israeli stance is highly strategic; by supporting democracy in Israel, it has, not only prevented the nation from falling into the hands of terrorists but also has helped them to effectively combat terrorism which is a threat to the USA itself. Besides, domestic affairs were equally pressing. The pressure from the American citizens, especially the wealthy Jewish community had played a chief role in making the governments’ pro- Israel.

Despite its Jewish sympathies, the role of USA as a mediator to end the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be denied. For years, it has tried to foster a good relationship between the two nations which would bring about peace and security for the citizens of both Israel and Palestine. From Carter’s role at the Camp David Accords in 1978 to the recently signed Abraham Accords under the Trump government, the USA has been the strongest supporter of a peaceful Middle-East.


Israel-United Arab Emirates Peace Agreement

On August 13, 2020, the monumental peace agreement between Israel and UAE was officially announced, crediting the efforts of the United States to broker such a deal. The peace agreement, also known as the Abraham Accords, normalizes diplomatic relations between the two countries and brings about cooperation on security, telecommunications, tourism, education, exchange of embassies as well as coordinated efforts in healthcare and research to combat Covid-19. Notably, Israel has also agreed to temporarily suspend the annexation of occupied parts of West Bank, which is under dispute with Palestine.


Repercussions of the deal on Palestine

On the face of it, the deal seems to benefit Palestine due to Israel agreeing to suspend their plans to annex West Bank settlements. The suspension of annexation plans also seems to be in consonance with the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict via a two-state solution, by reverting back to the 1967 borders, before the Israeli occupation of West Bank and establishing a separate State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.

However, immediately after the deal was announced, Palestine condemned the deal, calling it a betrayal of the Palestinian cause by the Emiratis. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) also reviled the agreement for indirectly rewarding illegal occupation by Israel. As per the Palestinians, this deal will weaken the support of the Arabs for the peace initiative and the suspension plans are a mere front to appease the world, while the gulf states focus on the more pressing issue of countering Iranian influence and advancing their technology with Israeli support.

President Trump’s early peace plan for the Israel-Palestine conflict supported the two-state solution but allowed Israel to annex Jordan valley settlements and also gives them sovereignty over Jerusalem, which was expressly rejected by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as it was completely biased towards Israel. The upcoming elections and the dwindling public opinion of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu is the hidden agenda behind this deal as it is exactly the win that is required to secure another term at the office, cementing their pro-Israel stance and delivering a blow to the Palestinian struggle to achieve sovereignty.


Change in Palestine’s stance on the peace deal

A substantial shift in the tone of Palestinian outcry against the deal was witnessed, when a draft resolution submitted to the Arab League did not expressly denounce the agreement. It states that the three-way agreement, which was earlier referred to as a betrayal by the Palestinian President, did not abate the support of Arab’s to the Palestinian cause. This sudden change in their stance begs the question, is this the beginning of Israel’s dominion over Palestine?

The USA has always maintained that Israel’s occupation of West Bank was not illegal under international laws and has refused to denounce the annexation plan. Even though the deal specifically calls for suspension of such plans, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed that his plans to annex West bank shall go forward, stating that he would not give up the sovereignty over his land, which proves that the suspension was a mere tactic to achieve the support of the UAE. This also proves the reluctance of the Israelis to agree to the two-state solution. With the Arab Peace Initiative at the forefront of their agenda, the Palestinian cause for separate statehood no longer bears support from the Arab states. The strong backing from USA and UAE might force Palestine to consent to an adverse agreement, effectively ending their dream of an independent state.

Although the driving force behind this deal to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East, the hidden agenda is to combat Iran sponsored acts of terrorism. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement due to violations had disastrous consequences due to lack of support from their allied nations, however, it did allow the USA to impose sanctions to punish Iran, indirectly affecting Russian and Chinese arms deals. This allowed the USA to not only isolate Iran but to also gain supremacy against China in the current political war. Growing terrorization and fear of Iranian retaliation compelled Palestine to soften their stance on this deal, as without support from the Gulf States, they would be left vulnerable to attacks.

The refusal of the Arab League to condemn the deal has also adversely affected the Palestinian cause. UAE’s strategic and economic interests and the need to achieve peace with Israel overshadow Palestine’s quest for sovereignty. In discussions pertaining to the draft resolution submitted by Palestine, the Arab League agreed to commit to a two-state solution based on 1967 borders and yet, they refused to outright reject the normalization deal and no final consensus was reached. Significant doubts on the feasibility of the two-state solution have steered other countries to follow suit and sign peace deals with Israel, indirectly allowing for Israel’s occupation over Palestine


Conclusions

The peace deal, on one hand, promotes and assures stability and supports the economic growth of the Middle- Eastern region. On the other hand, it seems to effectively drown out the voice of Palestine and the future of their independence appears very bleak. The declining support for the two-state solution will eventually force Palestine to agree to concessions from Israel, far less advantageous than the ones that have previously been debated. Nevertheless, the growing interest for establishing a single state and renewed support from the Saudis could force Israel to abandon its ambitions to annex West bank. The overwhelmingly positive response to the deal from various countries has obscured the Israel-Palestine peace initiative. Even India seeks to gain from this deal as Pakistan will now find it challenging to source funds for their Kashmir conflict, after damaging their relations with Saudi Arabia. What is yet to be seen is whether Palestine will bow down to Israel’s pressure and give up statehood or agree to a skewed two-state solution in the name of sovereignty.


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