The EU must adapt to the paradigm shift in the Middle East

Will the Europeans abandon their outdated conception of the Middle East peace process – more particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

NATIONAL SECURITY Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat makes his way to board a plane to leave Abu Dhabi, UAE, on September 1. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
NATIONAL SECURITY Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat makes his way to board a plane to leave Abu Dhabi, UAE, on September 1.
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
Historic news, extraordinary development... Without a doubt one of the main news this summer in the world: the decision of the United Arab Emirates, one of the most important states in the Gulf, to normalize its relations with the State of Israel.
A decision that prefigures a complete change of attitude of the Arab countries toward Israel, which is no longer seen as the enemy of the Arab world, but, on the contrary, as an ally and partner in peace, security and development economy of the whole region.
Abu Dhabi is thus the third capital – after Cairo and Amman – to cross the Rubicon. Other countries are expected to follow. We are now talking about Oman, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco... and why not Saudi Arabia. A normalization that illustrates the rise of a new generation of Arab leaders who have a different vision of the region.
This UAE-Israel agreement, obtained under the auspices of US President Donald Trump’s administration, deals an undoubtedly fatal blow to the dogma – widely held in Europe and elsewhere in the world – that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sine qua non to recognition of Israel by Arab countries. A concept that has allowed the Palestinian leadership to maintain over the years a negative attitude towards any attempt at negotiation with Israel. It should be a game changer.
One stone, two birds. In addition to the normalization of relations between the two countries and eventually the installation of reciprocal embassies and the launch of direct flights, the agreement also provides for an essential element for the Emiratis: the specific acceptance by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of suspend its plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to part of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), a project that was nevertheless part of Netanyahu’s electoral promises. “The priority is to expand the circle of peace,” he told Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia.
According to a Channel 12 poll, nearly 80% of Israelis prefer a normalization agreement with Arab countries to an extension of Israeli sovereignty.
Delaying the annexation (of territories), or preferably canceling it, will save Israel unnecessary political, security and economic costs and allow it to focus on the real national security challenges ahead: the economy, COVID-19, Iran, Hezbollah and Gaza, ” said Amos Yadlin, who heads the prestigious Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
There are two camps in the Middle East today. Those who oppose radical Islam want to promote peace, stability and economic development in the region – including Israel, the UAE and other Gulf countries, but also Egypt and Jordan – and those who, like Iran and Turkey (along with Qatar), seek hegemonic and warlike domination of the region through their agents – Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, as in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza or Libya.
The agreement between the Emirates and Israel clearly marks a change in perception of the Jewish state in the Arab world. Israel is no longer seen by these countries as a threat but as a stabilizing force in a volatile and chaotic region. Israel is also a military, technological and economic power with which to cooperate.
“The clause (of the agreement) inviting every peace-loving Muslim to visit al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem signals to the Islamic world that the only road to Jerusalem is through peace with Israel,” writes Yadlin.
“The Palestinians made the mistake of repeatedly condemning the ties forged over the years by their Arab brethren with Israel, preferring to hug false friends in Tehran and Ankara. In reality, it is the Palestinians who abandoned their Arab brothers in favor of foreign usurpers. Powerful Arab countries have had enough and choose to promote their national security interests without taking into account the moods of the Palestinians,” writes Dmitri Shfutinsky of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
Will the Europeans abandon their outdated conception of the Middle East peace process – more particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and understand the fact that this normalization agreement constitutes the prelude to a deep regional geopolitical evolution? A new paradigm.
Did EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell get it when he praised the normalization deal, while acknowledging the constructive role played by the US in this regard? Such normalization will benefit both countries and will constitute a “fundamental step for the stabilization of the entire region,” he stressed. He also called Israel’s commitment to suspend plans to extend sovereignty to part of the West Bank as “a positive step.” A project that the Europeans had been trying for several months to convince Israel to abandon. One less thorn in the complex relations between the EU and Israel.
After a phone conversation with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, his German counterpart Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the presidency of the EU, said the normalization deal could provide “new momentum” toward peace in the region.
A message relayed by the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Yves Le Drian – who speaks of a “new state of mind” illustrated by these announcements – should allow the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Now that the annexation project in the West Bank – the main stumbling block for the EU – has been frozen thanks to the agreement between the UAE and Israel, it is high time for the leaders of the European Union to take a decision. initiative to strengthen those in the Middle East who break taboos and seek to expand the circle of peace.
The writer is the editor in chief of the European Jewish Press and senior media adviser of Europe Israel Press Association.