Middle EastNews

Israel-Arab Normalisation Agreements: What Do They Actually Mean?

The agreements have been called “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people”.

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The agreements have been called “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people”.

In a recent article, The Muslim Vibe looked at how countries with a predominantly Muslim population reacted to Israel’s latest bout of attacks in May, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of innocent Palestinians – killing 257 people. 

Many Arab countries and the United States were very slow to condemn Israel, and there were a lot of mentions about ‘normalisation deals’ within mainstream media. But what exactly are they and how does it affect Palestine?

The UAE and Bahrain normalised their ties with Israel on 15th September 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, to establish full relations with Israel. Former US President Donald Trump brokered the signing of two peace agreements.

The first agreement was with Israel and the UAE, and the second was between Israel and Bahrain. If two countries normalise relations, it means they have a friendly relationship again after a war or disagreement.

The US Department of State Abraham Accords declaration states:

We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom. We encourage efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity.” 

The normalisation deal has been dubbed as the ‘Abraham Accords.’ The term Abrahamic relates to monotheistic religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity that recognise Abraham as part of their religion and whose teachings are based on the belief in a covenant between God and humankind. Muslims refer to Abraham as Prophet Ibrahim (as.), and Prophet Ibrahim’s first son Isma’il, is regarded as the father of the Arab people.

The only two Arab countries that had official normalisation agreements with Israel are Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The Israel–Sudan normalisation agreement took place on October 23, 2020. 

Arab states, however, are obliged to support Palestine according to the resolutions of the Arab League. The League’s main goal is to “draw closer the relations between member states and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries“. But Bahrain, the UAE, and Sudan violated the Arab Peace Initiative after signing normalisation agreements. 

Palestine fears these normalisation deals will prevent Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territory and Palestinian statehood, and the Palestinian leadership has therefore condemned the UAE and Bahrain’s normalisation deals.

The agreement was “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people”, Ahmad Majdalani, social affairs minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA), told AFP news agency.  

In December 2020, Morocco became the latest country to normalise relations with Israel after the US agreed to recognise Rabat’s sovereignty. In addition, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said a normalisation deal with Israel would be “extremely helpful” to the Middle East, but said it couldn’t happen without addressing “the issue of the Palestinians”.

Most recently, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law who served as an adviser during Trump’s presidency, has launched an organisation named the Abraham Accords Institute for Peace, to further cement normalisation deals between Israel and other Arab countries.

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Ahmed Atawna, the director of Vision Center for Political Development has stated that for Arab countries, “it may seem to these countries that they gained immediate benefits through strengthening relations with the US and acquiring some Israeli security and military systems, or having a friend or an ally in the region to help them face potential risks.”

He continued: “They are strengthening Israel’s influence in the region, which will sabotage these countries from within as what we have seen in Egypt and Jordan, which normalization with Israel got them nothing.”