Has Israel traded the settlements to arrive at Iran’s shores? - analysis

Israel’s UAE vote was also about Iran and the end of the arms embargo

A MAN WALKS on a Tehran street this week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared this week that ‘from Sunday we can sell our weapons to whomever we want and buy weapons from whomever we want.’ (photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA )
A MAN WALKS on a Tehran street this week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared this week that ‘from Sunday we can sell our weapons to whomever we want and buy weapons from whomever we want.’
(photo credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA )
 A divided Knesset united Thursday to make a strong statement that Israel desires peace with its Arab neighbors when the Knesset voted 80-13 to approve a peace deal with the United Arab Emirates.
It was an unusual moment given the deep divisions and internal strife that prevented the formation of a government for 18 months and forced protesters into the streets and which still threatens to lead to a fourth election in less than two years.
That parliamentarians from Labor Party leader and Economy Minister Amir Peretz to Yamina Party head Naftali Bennett supported the deal was a clear display of Israel’s desire for peace with the Arab world.
The bulk of the nine-hour Knesset debate centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Right-wing parliamentarians thundered against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to suspend the annexation of West Bank settlements so that the UAE agreement could move forward. It was an argument that distracted attention from one of the major elements of the deal; a new regional alliance to combat the growing threat from Iran.
National unity is one of the more critical elements when confronting an enemy, so the fact that 80 out of 120 parliamentarians backed the deal also sent an important message to Iran.
The timing, October 15th was also significant. True, the date is partly connected to the US elections on November 3rd, and the possibility of more Israeli elections. If US President Donald Trump is ousted from the White House and if Netanyahu’s government falls, both men will lack the political clout to put their full weight behind the deal. So the sooner it is approved, the better.
It is also possible that Netanyahu brought it forward now to help Trump in the elections. But it is likely that the most significant date is this Sunday, October 18th, when the United Nations Security Council embargo on Iran is lifted. This means that the international community can sell weapons to Iran and that has the potential to greatly strengthen its military.
The US attempted to thwart that move, first in a UNSC vote to extend the embargo that failed, and then through a play to end the Iran deal by insisting it could snap back  sanctions against Tehran.
The US has insisted that the sanctions lifted in 2015 when the Iran deal was put in place, have been reinstated including an arms embargo.
On Sunday it will likely become clear that no such snapback has occurred, given that 13 of the 15 UN Security Council members have refused to accept the US request that the sanctions be reimposed.
But while the Trump administration has failed to weaken Iran diplomatically at the UN, it has succeeded in strengthening the alliance against in the Middle East, specifically through Israel-UAE-Bahrain normalization deals.
Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz linked the deal with the UAE and the pending one with Bahrain, when he spoke Thursday at the Knesset.
“Israel is strengthened and Iran is weakened” with this deal, Gantz said.
“These days, when the Iranian ayatollah’s regime, seeks to resume the flow of arms to it with the removal of the embargo,” he said, Israel has a military and new and old alliances to combat that threat. These allies will “fight with us for peace and stability,” he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke of the link between the normalization deals, known as the Abraham Accords and Iran in an interview with Morning News on WIBC Indianapolis.
He explained how Trump had changed the paradigm in the Middle East from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, to one that highlighted the danger of Iran to the moderate Middle East Arab states.
“The president came in and said the problem isn’t the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It’s the challenge presented by the Islamic Republic of Iran. And so the Abraham Accords are a natural corollary to that,” Pompeo said.
To better understand what the significance of the new alliance you need only to look at a map. In July, prior to announcement of the deals, Israel faced a stand-off with Iran, with a border depth that only lasted as far as neighboring Jordan.
Between Jordan and Iran lay Iraq. But also, between Jordan and Iran lay Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Jutting out on the edge between Saudi Arabia the Gulf and Iran are two countries; Bahrain and the UAE.
Now, when Israel looks out at the map, it has an alliance with two countries that face Iran directly across the Gulf (Photo: FLICKR/MAGNUS HALSNES)Now, when Israel looks out at the map, it has an alliance with two countries that face Iran directly across the Gulf (Photo: FLICKR/MAGNUS HALSNES)
What a difference three months makes. Now, when Israel looks out at the map, it has an alliance with two countries that face Iran directly across the Gulf.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have not formed an alliance, but the country has given its tacit support to the normalization deals and allowed Israel to fly over its air space, straight to the UAE or Bahrain and beyond.
This means that should Saudi Arabia also sign a deal, Israel would have a straight geographic alliance that takes it to Iran’s shores.
Netanyahu has spoken of the UAE deal as “peace for peace.” But it could also be viewed as trade, in which he has exchanged a map of annexation for a regional map against Iran.
Talks of peace deals with the Gulf states have sounded dreamy, like doves fluttering in the breeze alive with economic and other possibilities.
But behind the sweet sounding wings, is newly delineated map that strengthens Israel’s reach toward Iran, precisely as the danger is about to increase.