The UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel has met with welcome reactions, anger or caution from Arab countries that Washington has been trying to persuade to follow in Abu Dhabi’s footsteps.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a visit to the Middle East, including Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Pompeo, from Israel, expressed optimism on Monday that other Arab countries would sign agreements with Israel. Analysts expect Khartoum and Manama to take similar measures after the UAE, which became the third Arab country to formally establish relations with the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia said the Kingdom will not follow the UAE’s example in normalizing relations with Israel in light of the failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and reiterated its adherence to the Arab peace plan which expects Israel to withdraw from Arab countries occupied since 1967.
the two seas
Bahrain was the first Gulf country to welcome the normalization agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. The contacts between the small Gulf state and the Jewish state date back to the 1990s. Bahrain and Israel share the same hostility towards Iran, which Manama accuses of supporting the Shiite opposition and trying to provoke security riots on its territory, which Tehran has repeatedly denied.
Bahrain has witnessed intermittent unrest since the suppression of a protest movement in February 2011 amid the events of the Shia-led “Arab Spring” to demand the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in the kingdom ruled by a Sunni family. But the small Gulf kingdom is very close to Riyadh and it will be difficult to develop its relations with the Jewish state without Saudi consent.
On August 20, a Bahraini official affirmed Manama’s support for “Palestinian rights”, while stressing that his country is a sovereign state and its decisions are based on its “strategic and security interests”. “While Saudi Arabia cannot print reports directly due to the deadlock in the peace process, Bahrain could become a center for Saudi-Israeli communication,” Andreas Craig, a Middle East researcher at Kings, told AFP. College.
Khartoum caused some confusion regarding normalization with Israel when former Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Al-Sadiq refused to deny that there was any contact between his country and Israel. He promised 24 hours after his statement. On 19 August, Sudanese Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din relieved the spokesperson from his duties.
Last February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda. The Sudanese government denied that there was any evidence that Netanyahu had promised to “normalize relations” between the two countries. Sudan is suffering from a suffocating economic crisis and hopes to remove it from the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism. An agreement to normalize relations with Israel can help.
“They are very eager for US sanctions to be lifted and for the UAE to have a great influence on them,” said Chenzia Bianco, a researcher specializing in Middle East affairs at the European Council on Foreign Relations Institute.
Sultanate of Oman
The sultanate was the second Gulf state to welcome the UAE’s announcement to normalize relations with Israel on August 13. Four days later, Muscat affirmed its commitment to the Palestinian people’s “right” to “establish their own independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Although the sultanate has not established formal relations with Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held surprise talks with the late Sultan Qaboos in Muscat in October 2018. The visit took place 24 years after that of the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In January 1996, the Sultanate signed an agreement with Israel to open offices of mutual commercial representation, and the Sultanate decided to close the office in 2000 with the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada. Bianco says the Sultan of Oman Haitham “is already acting cautiously due to potential economic concerns and will not risk an equally controversial move right now.”
Unlike its regional allies Iran and Turkey, Qatar has not reacted to the UAE’s normalization of its relations with Israel. Relations between Qatar and the UAE have been severed since 2017. Qatar was the first Gulf country where Israel opened a representative office in 1996, before it was closed in 2000. Doha does not hide its contacts with Israel. The small Gulf state also enjoys influence in the Gaza Strip, where last year, in collaboration with the United Nations and Egypt, it helped to achieve a calm between Israel and the Hamas movement that controls the Strip. Craig believes that “while Qatar cooperates with Israel in support of the Palestinian cause … it will not normalize relations until the peace process is halted”.
Kuwait, another US ally, makes no known contact with Israel and continues to reject normalization in support of the Palestinian cause. There have been no official comments from Kuwait on the agreement between the UAE and the Jewish state, but it has opened a political discussion on the matter. Political groups and civil society organizations denounced the agreement, while others defended it. However, normalization of relations with Israel seems far-fetched, according to Bianco, who points out that Kuwait’s National Assembly has used “hostility towards Israel to gain its position as the voice of the people.”