Peace with the UAE mustn't come at the cost of Israel's vital interests

Sophisticated weaponry in Arab hands is a bad idea. It’s too dangerous.

El Al's inaugural flight to the United Arab Emirates. (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
El Al's inaugural flight to the United Arab Emirates.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Is there anyone who isn’t thrilled about the peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, the land of 1,001 nights? The deal has significant benefits: anticipated investments, profitable business ventures, closer security cooperation against Iran, and luxury vacations with a tour of the Oriental bazaar.
The agreement should be welcomed by everyone, even those who would rather do without these advantages than acknowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has actually achieved something.
But still, it shouldn’t come at the cost of our most vital interests. Sophisticated weaponry in Arab hands is a bad idea. It’s too dangerous. Military supremacy is fundamental to our existence. Even if we have close relations with the countries acquiring the weapons, there is always the risk that one day they will be turned against us.
Another vital interest of ours is to extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements.
We’re not even talking about the uninhabited regions of Area C. At the moment, the only issue on the table is the settlements themselves. You have to understand, as things stand, the life of Israelis in Judea and Samaria is intolerable. You need the army’s approval for a building permit, you need the army’s approval to build a classroom so your kids don’t have to study in a caravan. In fact, since there is no urban plan, everything has to go through the army: laying a water pipe, constructing a sewage drain, hooking up to the grid, running TV and Internet cables. Absolutely everything.
The army’s job is to fight and defend. It’s not equipped to administer civilian life. You apply for a permit and wait years until you finally get it. The settlements occupy 2.5% of Area C, which means only 1.5% of the whole of Judea and Samaria.
Does the fate of the agreement with the UAE lie in this 1.5%-2%? Does it lie in communities that will remain in our hands whatever the future brings? Why is everyone up in arms about them? Why do half a million Israelis have to live under military rule?
This isn’t an issue on which we should compromise. It’s too important to us, and it doesn’t really matter to the sheiks in the Gulf.
For decades, the Palestinian question was the excuse for Arab hostility toward Israel. Supposedly, it was the reason that Arab countries invaded Israel, fought us in every arena, imposed an economic embargo on us, and funded horrific acts of terrorism against us.
Over the years, as the Arab world came to realize that Israel was here to stay, the excuse became a burden. The Palestinians aren’t really of any interest to the Arab countries, and certainly not to the Gulf states. Actually, they were never of any particular interest to them. They merely served as a pretext for their animosity toward us.
However now, Palestinian intransigence, violence and terrorism are getting in their way. It’s not that the UAE suddenly likes us, but it currently has its own problems to worry about. It’s shaking in its boots because of the Iranians across the Gulf, and Israel is the only country in the region with the power to stop them. It doesn’t have patience for the Palestinians’ constant whining.
Peace with the Gulf states is important for us, but we mustn’t forget that it’s no less important for them. For us, it has major benefits; for them it’s a matter of life and death.
We must maintain our military supremacy, and we cannot back down on extending Israeli sovereignty to the settlements. The basis of any agreement should be simple: recognition in exchange for recognition; diplomatic relations in exchange for diplomatic relations; and peace in exchange for peace.
Translated by Sara Kitai.