Israel-UAE deal nullifies Arab Peace Initiative, Yadlin says

‘Saudis will not hurry’ to make an agreement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a telephone conversation in his office with US President Donald Trump and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, August 13, 2020 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a telephone conversation in his office with US President Donald Trump and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, August 13, 2020
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is no longer relevant now that Israel and the United Arab Emirates are set to normalize ties, former IDF Intelligence Director Amos Yadlin said on Monday.
“The Arab Peace Initiative principle of having the veto on normalization between Israel and the Arabs, this is gone,” Yadlin told The Jerusalem Press Club during a virtual meeting on the US-brokered deal.
He spoke of the demise of the Arab Peace Initiative, which for 18 years has been one of the cornerstones of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The deal, was an attempt by the Arab states to force a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines. It is referenced in most international documents.
It offered Israel normalized ties to the Arab nations, if it would withdraw to the Green Line, with minor swaps. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had long argued with little success, that ties should first be normalized and only then could peace be achieved with the Palestinians.
Thursday’s dramatic announcement of a pending deal between the UAE and Israel, marks the first break from the Arab Peace Initiative since its inception, upending almost entirely the principles of peace making between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel’s 1979 agreement with Egypt and its 1994 accord with Jordan, were signed prior to that 2002 Initiative.
Yadlin noted that the Palestinians themselves, who had normalized ties with Israel under the 1993 Oslo Accords, had never held by that principle and now, the UAE has followed suit.
The Arab Peace Initiative “was an obstacle. It gave the Palestinians the feeling that they can demand everything and that Israel wanting to have normalization with the Arab world, would give them much more than Israel was willing to give,” said Yadlin, who is the Executive Director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.
“The Arab peace Initiatives is one of the reasons the peace process has been stuck from 2002-2020. My hope is that after the first shock, they will understand that they have to recalibrate their expectations and understand that they no longer have this leverage against Israel,” Yadlin said.
He speculated that Bahrain could be the next Arab country to make a deal with Israel, because its “under the table” and “covert” relations to Israel, were similar to that of the UAE.
He also noted that last summer Bahrain hosted a summit that related to the economic portion of the US President Donald Trump’s plan.
“But they [Bahrain] will look over their shoulder to see what the Saudis are saying,” Yadlin said. He imagined that the Saudis had given the UAE its silent consent to a deal with Israel, but that didn’t mean it would immediately. The “Saudis will not hurry to join [a deal with Israel]… They will be very cautious,” Yadlin said.
The other countries who might join are Sudan and Morocco, Yadlin said. These countries will look to see what price the UAE might have to pay for a deal with Israel, he added.
On a positive note, he said, the UAE public has not objected to the deal, but it is unclear whether that would be the same in other countries, Yadlin said.
With respect to Tehran, Yadlin predicted that he did not foresee an Iranian military response against the UAE, particularly since it relies on the UAE economic hub.
“Politically [Iran] is very weak. So aside from speeches, I don’t see Iran doing something that would change the course in the Middle East,” he said.
The deal, he said, provides multiple victories across a broad spectrum, including diplomatic achievements for Netanyahu and Trump.
The US “peace plan” had gone “nowhere” and annexation would have buried it, Yadlin said.
Netanyahu “understood that with annexation he had an asset with a negative return and an expiration date very soon in January 2021.”
He exchanged a move that had risks and costs to something that had only benefits, Yadlin said.
The deal gives Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan a leadership position in the Middle East and more support from the US and Israel against Iran. Positioning himself as a moderate Muslim leader gives him “some ammunition to cope with the criticism in what his military is doing in Yemen” by simply “putting into the open relations that were there already,” Yadlin said.
Jordan “is relieved” because it had been sandwiched between its strategic ally Israel and its bonds with the Palestinians, Yadlin said.
“They were afraid the Palestinian Authority would collapse” and “they were ideologically opposed to the annexation,” Yadlin said.
Egypt considers that it was vindicated for making peace with Israel over 40 years ago.
“Win, win, win, win, win. Peace again. Diplomacy again. I hardly find any[thing] negative in this move,” Yadlin said.