UAE-Israel Agreement: An abandonment of Palestinian rights that must be rejected
Last week’s announcement of the normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is no cause for celebration. While it should come as little surprise given that friendly relations between the two were an open secret for decades, the formalisation of the agreement is nevertheless paid for in the negation of Palestinian fundamental rights – not least the right to self-determination.
Instead of centring Palestinian rights as the pivot upon which to build a just and sustainable peace, this agreement actually does the opposite; it gives important diplomatic cover to Israel’s ongoing violations of these rights.
This is clear through the UAE’s justification that in signing the agreement it had halted Israel’s plan to illegally annex large parts of the West Bank.
This is, of course, nonsense.
Annexation remains the plan, Apartheid remains the reality
That Israel has not proceeded with de jure annexation has nothing to do with this agreement; it is merely a temporary tactical halt in the face of the threat of international sanctions and an increasingly ambivalent US administration. Yet even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear, “there is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], in full coordination with the United States.”
It is also absurd as it suggests that Israel’s illegal threat to annex deserves to be met with rewards and concessions, rather than censure and sanctions. In fact, in using concerns around annexation as a superficial pretext for this agreement, the UAE has committed a grave crime against the Palestinians. While it has changed nothing on the ground – where annexation, racism and apartheid are already the everyday reality for Palestinians – it will, rather, help to normalise and entrench Israel’s occupation. The agreement has given the overt approval of an Arab state to Israel’s extrajudicial killings, military attacks on civilians, arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and children, home demolitions, land confiscation and the expansion of illegal settlements.
Palestinians are united in rejecting the deal
It is quite telling that the Palestinian leadership knew nothing of this agreement until its formal announcement. Naturally, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has been appalled by the UAE’s citing of faux concern for Palestinian rights and has criticised the move.
The PLO stated that “the Palestinian leadership rejects the actions of the Emirati government, considering it to be a betrayal of the Palestinian [and] affirms that the UAE, or any other party, has no right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, and does not allow anyone to intervene in the Palestinian affairs or speak on their behalf about their legitimate rights in their homeland.” For their part, all Palestinian factions have rejected the deal, calling it a “stab in the back”.
Geopolitical realities and the trade in oppression
In fact, looking at geopolitical and military-economic factors reveals much more about this latest phase in UAE-Israel relations than any conceited statements from diplomats or politicians. It should be obvious that this is just another step in the regional geopolitical alignment which has seen the US, Israel and Gulf states seek to limit Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
But beyond this, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that “just hours after normalization, sources in the Israel defense industry were talking about how [the UAE is] an ideal partner, with deep pockets and an authoritarian regime that can make quick decisions on arms purchases.” Such shady deals in the region are not new of course, but merchants of oppression can now operate more freely; as Haaretz notes, this deal will “lead to an increase in the sale of [Israeli] arms, cybersecurity and command-and-control systems,” not just to UAE but to other repressive Gulf states too.
A just and sustainable peace requires nothing less than Palestinian rights
It has been disappointing to see states such as France and Britain praise this deal, even as all of Palestinian polity and society is united in so vehemently calling for its rejection; these are the voices that should be listened to, not ignored and side-lined.
If third states such as Ireland are serious about peace and justice for Palestinians, then they cannot seriously consider this to be a ‘peace’ deal then when it does precisely nothing to remove the key causes of the conflict, namely, the enduring occupation, oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people. On the contrary, it will actually entrench these by strengthening the hand of the oppressor.
It would be nothing less than a cynical exploitation of Palestinian political and military weakness to welcome a ‘peace agreement’ that merely rewards threats, aggression and illegality.
For a true and sustainable peace built on justice, the international community needs to uphold and apply existing international law and use its already available mechanisms and instruments to hold Israel accountable for its violations of human rights and international law.
For freedom, justice and equality: We must support the Palestinian BDS Movement
UAE isn’t the first Arab state to cosy-up to Israel, nor is it likely to be the last. But it has always been the ‘Arab Street’ – the struggling and downtrodden masses – that have been the stalwart supporters of the Palestinian freedom struggle, not corrupt dictators and human rights abusing regimes who this week find themselves on one side of some geopolitical game, and next week on the opposite.
Simply because what has long festered in darkness has finally been brought into the light doesn’t mean it is time for those who thirst for justice to despair – rather, it is the time to renew commitment and redouble our efforts for Palestinian liberation.
Palestine will be free – and it will be Palestinians who free themselves. But as they have been abandoned also by Western and other states of the global north, they have asked us, the ordinary people of the world, to be their auxiliaries in their heroic fight for freedom, justice and equality. We play this role by building and intensifying the global Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement. Join us.