Ehud Olmert to 'Post': How will the Israel-UAE deal affect all involved?

We must admit that the move is beneficial to the State of Israel, and is certainly just as significant for the UAE. There’s no doubt whatsoever this achievement is helpful for Trump.

US AMBASSADOR to Israel David Friedman and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner applaud after President Donald Trump announces a peace deal between Israel and the UAE, from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US AMBASSADOR to Israel David Friedman and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner applaud after President Donald Trump announces a peace deal between Israel and the UAE, from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump’s announcement of normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which was followed soon after by an endorsement from Mohammed bin Zayed, the ruler of the UAE, brought to the forefront, for a fleeting moment, the political debate over the future of the Middle East and Israel’s relationship with its neighbors.
We must admit that the move is beneficial to the State of Israel, and is certainly just as significant for the UAE. There’s no doubt whatsoever this achievement is helpful for Trump.
Having said that, I believe it is worthwhile to further examine how this move will affect each country that is involved and the impact it could have on their leaders.
Trump has a good reason to be pleased. He has spent several years already – almost his entire term – in an attempt to leave his mark in the area of international relations, and he was finally able to create some positive momentum and help forge relations between Israel and a moderate Sunni Arab state.
The North Korean fiasco has been forgotten, and it appears the threat that could have led to a global conflict has dissipated. In the end, the threat posed by North Korea has finally returned to reasonable proportions, and the international community has lost interest in it, compared with how much attention it received earlier on in Trump’s term when he threatened North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump also failed to remake his image by entering a trade war with China and changing all the rules of the international trade game. Many people believe that Trump’s claims about the ways the Chinese conduct trade are correct. The fact that China has taken advantage of low tariffs in an effort to take over the international trade market, while backing the US into the corner, is certainly a good reason for the president to create conditions that would allow for fair competition in foreign trade.
In this case, too, at this point in time at least, the efforts made by the president and his staff have not yet resulted in resounding success, and with the approaching election, Trump is clearly hoping to achieve a triumphant victory that he can boast about and would help him improve his standing in preelection polls.
There’s no doubt that the protracted effort Trump has invested in formulating his “Deal of the Century” plan, which was supposed to get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations back on track, did not result in the long-awaited breakthrough.
At the end of the day, the connections Jared Kushner successfully weaved in the Middle East, and especially in the Persian Gulf states, matured into a well-formulated plan that was justifiably portrayed as the president’s success. Trump is entitled to be pleased. Will this achievement alter the outcome of the upcoming US election by improving Trump’s chance at being elected to a second term in office? It’s doubtful. When it comes down to it, how many Americans actually care what the ruler in Abu Dhabi thinks about Israel? Do the residents of Austin, New Orleans or Memphis have any interest in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation policy?
Trump’s diplomatic achievement might possibly affect Evangelical voters who view the annexation of the West Bank settlements as part of the fulfillment of their messianic vision, but it’s not at all clear if an improvement in relations between Israel and moderate Sunni countries such as the UAE, alongside Israel’s commitment to refrain from annexing territories, will lead to an increase or decline in their support of Trump. At any rate, it’s unlikely that this diplomatic achievement, which is the fruit of Kushner’s hard work, will alter the balance of political power in the US.
Bin Zayed’s declaration has drawn attention from all over the world to Abu Dhabi, for the time being. Bin Zayed is an educated, intelligent and determined man who, with the assistance of his five brothers – all of whom are sons of their revered mother Fatima – rules over the UAE, including its foreign residents, who make up many more than citizens living there.
Abu Dhabi is part of the Emirates, which are all rich due to the abundance of crude oil, and its citizens enjoy an extremely high standard of living that is among the highest in the world. The main threat to Sunni countries like UAE is Iran, which is a warlike and aggressive Shi’ite country. Naturally, the hostility with Iran has led to the creation of an alliance between Israel and the UAE.
This alliance has been built with a great amount of effort over the last 15 years. Throughout these years, Israel has been building an effective channel of communication with the leadership in Abu Dhabi. Cooperation, commercial trade and the supply of essential equipment have all become regular parts of the daily agenda for many people here and not a small number of people in Abu Dhabi, as well. This is not necessarily a declaration of peace, since there’s never been a war between Israel and the UAE.
This move faithfully represents the expected process of normalization or the gradual and controlled exposure of a relationship that has existed for years between us and them. The UAE will gradually open up to Israeli tourists now and they will continue to forge business ties particularly in the security arena, which is definitely in Abu Dhabi’s best interests – as well as Israel’s.
The declaration of normalization of relations between Israel and Abu Dhabi combines explicit commitments by the Israeli government to refrain from annexing the territories, to freeze all construction in settlements and to agree to Trump’s peace plan, which is based on a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state would exist beside the State of Israel.
The relatively small risk Bin Zayed took in publicly announcing that Abu Dhabi is normalizing ties with Israel is counterbalanced by the fact that he had the prime minister of Israel doing backward somersaults and committing himself to not unilaterally annex parts of Judea and Samaria, including the Jordan Valley, and not to change the status of a large number of settlements. In exchange, Netanyahu received public recognition of an Arab state, which is valuable.
Everyone who feared unilateral annexation or was frightened by Netanyahu and his gang’s audacious steps should be very satisfied with this move. My aim is not to settle accounts with Netanyahu, for his infinite flexibility on issues that seem to be part of his world view. The settlers and their leaders who considered Netanyahu to be a pioneering leader who was determined to fulfill their dream of annexing all of Judea and Samaria, will do it.
However, I am going to congratulate Netanyahu for this decision. What looks like a ruling made by someone who was at his wit’s end, who surrendered to international pressure and engaged in unnecessary flattery with Trump and a desire to help him – all of this in my eyes looks like a move that is worthy of esteem and recognition.
Over the years, I have stood on the front line in an effort to prevent the annexation of the territories and in favor of Israel returning to 1967 borders, with the minimal annexation of three areas: Areas surrounding Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Ariel and its environs in Samaria. For many years now, I have believed that this territorial solution is inevitable and the sooner it happens, the better it will be for Israel.
And I still believe this today. The one who stood on the opposite front was Netanyahu. When I proposed giving up land, Netanyahu demanded the area be annexed. When I offered a compromise, he demanded that we clash with the Palestinians in an effort to realize the vision of a greater Israel.
Everyone who was on my side was named by Netanyahu a traitor while everyone who stood by him was considered a protector of Israel.
Now, Netanyahu has stepped over to the other side. Well, not quite yet. He’s not yet declared that he is willing to withdraw from most of the territories, mostly because he’s not sure yet which move will be of greater benefit to him in his struggle to extricate himself from his legal battles and save him and his family. He’s still worried that he’ll give up too much of his power to the right-wing parties, to Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and perhaps to someone who might launch an even more right-wing party than Bennett, representing the messianic settlers.
However, from the point of view of normal Israelis, Netanyahu’s capitulation to Trump’s desires, the commitment to give up on the idea of annexation and the willingness to come to terms with the Trump plan and the two-state solution is the move of true statesmanship deserving appreciation and respect.

The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel
Translated by Hannah Hochner