It certainly was dramatic, as US President Donald Trump announced in the White House Thursday an agreement by the United Arab Emirates and Israel to move to full normalisation.
But is it really a harbinger of wider peace in the Middle East? Or rather, something to cause us all great concern, as three of the region’s most militaristic and aggressive powers join forces?
In reality, this is the latest reminder that American diplomacy in the Middle East remains driven mainly by Israeli priorities and US domestic politics, now made more combustible with the addition of aggressive Emirati policies.
Assorted Arabs – in this case showcased Emiratis and nonexistent Palestinians – are just convenient props for an electioneering mini-rally, whose key audience is the Christian evangelical voters and some extremist American Zionist donors who are crucial for Trump’s reelection hopes.
The White House event was more like a cult gathering to heap praise on the leader than a serious move into Arab-Israeli peace-making, including Trump’s own suggestion that the agreement be named after him and the suggestion by one of his senior officials that he be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The announcement was generally received positively in western media because the American public is as ignorant of Middle East realities as their president is, and they respond to hope-filled clichés about peace and prosperity. The agreement’s throbbing heart – moving towards formal UAE-Israeli relations – only gives a public face to Israeli-Emirati quiet cooperation that has been going on for a few years.
Even if a few other worried Arab states formalise relations with Israel, this would only expand the gulf between rulers and ruled in most Arab countries, adding new tensions in an already wobbly region.
The tripartite American-Israeli-Emirati statement that Trump read out, which was clearly based on an Israeli first draft, talks of the three states launching “a Strategic Agenda for the Middle East to expand diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation,” because the three “share a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region.”
This should cause most people in the region to worry, given the militaristic and authoritarian policies pursued across the region in recent years by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Emirati Crown Prince and effective leader Mohammad bin Zayed, such as in Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and other lands.
The path to regional peace, prosperity and security for Arabs, Israelis, Iranians and all others does not pass through settler-colonial extremists in the White House or frightened Arab leaders who refuse to trust their own people. It requires a commitment to equal rights for all under international law, which was nowhere to be seen in the White House drama on Thursday.Beware the US-Israel-UAE Strategic Agenda for the Arab Region