UAE-Israel deal trades Dolev and Ateret for Dubai and Abu Dhabi – analysis

Even those hoping for sovereignty admit that a peace agreement with the UAE is a pretty sweet consolation prize.

A general view shows the area outside the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, mostly deserted, after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates March 25, 2020. Picture taken March 25, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/TAREK FAHMY)
A general view shows the area outside the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, mostly deserted, after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates March 25, 2020. Picture taken March 25, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/TAREK FAHMY)
Call it Dubai for Dolev, Abu Dhabi for Ateret.
The surprise announcement in Washington on Thursday of a normalization accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in apparent exchange for Israel’s decision to suspend annexation of the settlements or any parts of Judea and Samaria, is a win for the UAE, a win for President Donald Trump and a partial win for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It’s a loss for those who had hoped that Israel would take advantage of the friendliest US administration in memory and extend its sovereignty over at least part of the West Bank. But even those in this camp have to admit that even if you can’t annex the Jordan Valley and Ma’aleh Adumim, a peace agreement with the UAE – a regional economic and technological powerhouse strategically placed just 100 miles from Iran at its closest point – is a pretty sweet consolation prize.
How is it a win for the UAE?
First of all, the UAE, which has had significant under-the-table ties with Israel for years, can now bring these ties out in the open and expand them, justifying it all by saying that in this way they have staved off Israeli annexation.
Rather than being portrayed in the Arab world as betraying the Palestinian cause, the Emirates can now say they championed the cause by ensuring that there will be no annexation, thereby keeping the two-state solution on the table. They are getting something they want, a relationship with a country with which they share many regional interests, without being seen – as Egypt was in 1979 when Anwar Sadat signed a peace accord with Israel – as “selling out the cause.”
Secondly, the UAE wins because security and intelligence cooperation between the two countries, which has been taking place for years on a low burner under the table, can now be turned up a notch. The two countries share common enemies in Iran and radical Islam, and they can better and more effectively help one another once their ties are formalized and there are embassies, diplomats and attaches in each other’s countries.
How does Trump benefit?
Trump benefits by notching up a significant diplomatic coup just three months before the US election. People have for years talked about peace between Israel and the Gulf Arab states, or at least one of the Gulf Arab states. He pulled it off.
If Jimmy Carter will forever be associated with Egyptian-Israeli peace, and Bill Clinton will be linked with the Israel-Jordan peace agreement, Trump’s name will now forever be connected with peace between Israel and the UAE.
And with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden sure to try and cast Trump as a threat to world peace – underlining his policy toward Iran as a failure – Trump can counter that he brokered the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state in more than 25 years.
The peace deal will also mute criticism that is sure to be voiced during his campaign of the failure of his “Deal of the Century.” Any effort to say he has destabilized the Mideast will be met by a three-word reply: Israel-UAE peace.
In all the discussions of whether Israel would extend its sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, there were those who said Trump needed this to please not US Jewish voters, for the most part uninterested in the move, but rather for his Evangelical base.
But this argument was way overstated, as this has never been one of the core concerns for his Evangelical voters. And even if the idea of annexation does come up in his meetings with Evangelical leaders in the coming weeks, he can say he brought something even more valuable: peace between Israel and an important Arab state.
Which leaves Netanyahu, for whom this is a partial victory. Why partial? Because peace with the UAE comes at the expense of something he promised his voters before each of the last three elections: extending Israeli law to all the settlements and the Jordan Valley.
And if Israel does not annex any part of the territories as Trump’s “Deal of the Century” indicated it could, that means that plan – which changed the parameters of peace-making in the area – is largely off the table.
Netanyahu, who could have annexed the settlements had he wanted to over the last 11 years in office, never came across as a great advocate of the move, and he seemed only to push it right before the last three elections to woo voters on the Right.
The peace deal with the UAE allows him to gracefully climb down the tree. The Right will attack him for selling out the Land of Israel for a peace deal with the UAE, and he will extol the benefits of the deal: intelligence and security cooperation, tourism, business and an ally in the battle against Iran. If you are going to give up on annexing the settlements, you might as well get something in return.
On June 12, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al Otaiba, penned an op-ed in Yediot Aharonot urging Israel not to go forward with annexation, warning that if it did so, then all hopes of normalization would be lost.
This clearly marked a crisis in the informal relations between the two states. But every crisis, as the old saying goes, presents an opportunity, and this provided Israel with valuable leverage to use with those urging it not to go forward with the move. “You don’t want us to annex? Okay, let’s say we don’t, what will we get in return?”
On Thursday, the answer came.•