Israel did not sign “peace deals” with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain today. You can’t make peace between countries who have never been at war. And the notion that they are only now establishing a relationship is laughable. Clandestine relationships between Israel and the Gulf states have existed for a long time, in some cases, not even all that clandestine.
But while the pomp and circumstance around these agreements may be vastly overstated, it is not entirely false. There is a new day dawning in Israel’s relationship with the Gulf monarchies. As many have noted, it’s a day that marks the abandonment by the leadership of these countries of even the thin, rhetorical support they have given the Palestinians until now.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to prove he can have open, normal relations with the Arab world while still holding millions of Palestinians without their basic rights. I argue in my latest piece for Responsible Statecraft that he might be able to get his deals, but he can only do so because the leaders of these Arab countries are dictators who, in contrast to their beliefs of the past, now think they can get away with making these deals that are overwhelmingly detested by their own citizens. The results have actually been demonstrated by history.
In Egypt and Jordan, those deals have held because the leaders have been reinforced in their strangling of democratic forces by the United States. That has led to cold states of peace with both countries which limit opportunities and cooperation and are always threatened. The threat is that popular forces might bring about a change, as they did in Turkey, and turn a one-time ally into a tense adversary, albeit not a true enemy. Or, a more revolutionary shift can come, as it did in Iran. We know how that worked out.
The UAE and Bahrain are making this deal in order to bolster their regimes’ holds on power and their economic interests, and, above all, to solidify a military alliance against Iran, which is getting closer to Turkey and Russia. They are deals based on maintaining and escalating regional tensions, and depend on a total negation of Arab democracy to stay in place. You tell me: what kind of peace is that? I look into it at Responsible Statecraft.