Israel is very happy about its newly-signed treasure prize with the United Arab Emirates. Its recent wish and action to normalize relations with the UAE has become a Godsend for its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been facing months of protests against his beleaguered rule. It’s a happy occasion also because it was the UAE which made the first nod and wink to normalize after months and even years of talking about the move to establish a diplomatic handshake with Israel.
This move makes the UAE the third in the Arab world to establish relations with Israel after Egypt made the first move in 1978 and later Jordan in 1994. Despite the geographical longitudes and the over-stretched time periods, Israel’s relations with these two Arab countries remained “static” and on the “statist” level unable to reach the popular ground simply because people didn’t want to “normalize” with Israel or with Israelis because of too many simmering memories.
In a way this is not too surprising as both Jordan and Egypt had been at war with Israel, not forgetting the issues of refugees, displacements, the Palestinian question and the territorial borders, which remained at best in limbo. Thus despite the “fanfare accords” between Israel, Egypt and Jordan, the agreements continued to be termed as “cold peace.”
Many across-the-board Israelis even continued to resent the fact that the then president Husni Mubarak never officially made a visit to Israel despite the fact that there was diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv. It was the same with Jordan. The present monarch King Abdullah II only paid a sojourn to Ramallah to see president Mahmood Abbas and wouldn’t cross into Israel.
Fast-forward today. Although people saw it as coming because of the overtures that had been building up between Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the Gulf countries, many were surprised as well. After all those years, the UAE was to normalize with Israel, the first Arab Gulf state to extend a hand to the Jewish state. With no bashfulness, the United Arab Emirates today wants to make sure the door is fully opened between the Emirates and Israel.
And it is not just diplomatic relations and political handshakes, the UAE leadership wants full economic cooperation in different fields including technology, high-tech industries, transport, aviation, medical innovation and farming expertise. The UAE wants to benefit from Israeli expertise no doubt in return for its bundles of investments. And in this respect, companies from both countries are working together to find a vaccine for the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.
A great deal of Israelis and not just diplomats and politicians have been delighted, even ecstatic over the latest normalization era with many describing this latest step as one that is going to establish a “warm peace” between the two countries. In other words, this peace will climb down from the “statist” level and permeate into Emirati society, among the populace who would want to travel to Israel and have the chance to see Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque with the blessing of UAE leaders and politicians who have always been keen to establish an independent foreign policy.
No sooner was the new UAE-Israel intentions announced, Jewish advertisers, especially in the tourism sector, began quickly to place ads for Emiraties to come to Israel and see its “beautiful” places, obviously eyeing the big bucks to be had by willing people from the Gulf federation who would surely want an exotic land.
But hold on. Isn’t the Israelis being too carried away. Regardless of their economic status and their power to spend, Emiratis have long been a part of the Gulf Islamic-Arabic culture reared on the fact that Israel was a manufactured state which forcibly came and usurped the whole of Palestine with all the heartaches that it entailed in terms of refugees, displacement and constant wars and frictions created. The region has been in constant turmoil ever since Israel was established in 1948 and the first of the Arab-Israeli war that ensued.
Like the rest of the Gulf people, the Emiratis had long been socialized on this fact as underpinned by their Pan-Arab nationalism, political culture, the sense of regional insecurity that was created and the constant badgering at their identity that became magnified as urbanization set in these societies, building of their nation-states and the spread of education, sciences and technological institutes that increased their political awareness and sense of alienation that took place. This has long become the case starting from Kuwait right-down to Bahrain and even Oman when new consciousness started to dig in despite the modern Israeli courtship of the latter countries to normalize relations but with little hardcore moves in that directions even among the governments levels.
Its early days but you can bet your bottom dollar Emirates will not be tripping over their feet to go anytime soon to Israel despite their cosmopolitanism or openness to the world. Oh, yes sure their might be a few who would be tempted to go to Israel to visit, but this would be far and between regardless of how Israel tries to project itself or the kind of enticements it is prepared to put on the table.
This is because the schism is too great. The loss of Palestine as an Arab issue and the people; they will not forget. Without tangible, practical peace based on justice and territory, there can be no compromise regardless of the tinkering, the warm peace Israelis dream about will continue to be a cold one.
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