Middle East: Tensions Remain High

Middle East: Tensions Remain High Author: Viktor Mikhin for Journal NEO

In a desperate attempt to gain some semblance of an advantage before the presidential election, US President Donald Trump, who is currently trailing his opponent from the Democratic party by 5-7%, decided to play the only trump card he has left – by sending his political “special operatives” to the Middle East. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, serving as the Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, left for the Middle East in great haste, in the vain hope of resolving the Arab–Israeli conflict any time soon.

A number of diplomats think that none of these trips will lead to an announcement of an immediate breakthrough, although the visits are aimed at concluding at least one or perhaps, several pacts on normalizing relations with Israel in the nearest future.  The White House and the US Department of State have, so far, been cautious in their comments about any upcoming trips that will happen once the US government renews its efforts to promote the resolution of the Arab–Israeli conflict even before the normalization of relations between Israel and Palestine. They also restarted when the Trump administration made a controversial decision to re-impose all UN sanctions on Iran, a step supported only by Israel and a number of Gulf states.

On August 13, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they were establishing full diplomatic relations “in a US-brokered deal that required Israel to halt its contentious plan to annex occupied West Bank land sought by the Palestinians”. It would seem that Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned USA’s provocative plan, which will most likely bring only misfortune and suffering to the region. And although according to Benjamin Netanyahu, the hoped-for annexation plan was on temporary hold, it is unlikely that crimes committed against civilians in Palestine by the Israeli government will stop; that al-Quds (Jerusalem) will see a revival under its Arabic name, and that Palestinians will finally gain the right to self-determination. The agreement is seemingly a recognition of claims to Palestinian lands by Israel, the occupier of Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

In line with these sinister schemes, the US-Israeli delegation, headed by, among others, Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner, arrived in the UAE, as reported, with great fanfare, by international media outlets. During this trip, viewed as historic, to finalize the “pact marking open relations between Israel and the Gulf state”, its members “told Palestinians it was now time for them to negotiate peace”. Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, “also said on arrival that Washington could help maintain Israel’s military edge while advancing its ties to the UAE, the Arab world’s second largest economy and a regional power”.

The Trump administration has also sought to persuade other majority Sunni Arab countries to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel and join the US-led dastardly plan to strengthen the stranglehold on the people of Palestine. Although Saudi Arabia, the most powerful nation among them, opened up its airspace to the El Al Israel Airlines-operated charter flight that carried the delegation from the US and Israel from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, its leadership indicated that they were not ready for such changes.

The United States and Israel, in the meantime, continue coaxing other Arab countries to join the peace initiative, which would mean betraying Palestinians. The UAE and Israel, which established commercial and technological ties with each other a long time ago, can now be open about their relationship with the arrival of the joint US-Israeli delegation in Abud Dhabi. “We came here to transform a vision into a reality. There are no limits to cooperation in education, innovation, health, aviation, agriculture, energy and many other fields,” said Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, thus pointing out some key areas of economic interest for the two countries.

In reality, only Israel is likely to benefit. The UAE can supply Israel with crude oil owing to its vast reserves. Ellen R. Wald, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, has stated that currently, “the best local source of oil that Israel can buy in any quantity is Kurdish oil from Iraq”. According to her, “oil from the UAE would be a great economic and strategic opportunity for Israel”, while “the UAE can obtain a new oil customer”. In the past, the Gulf countries always refused to sell oil to Israel and up to now, none of the other nations in that region have followed in UAE’s footsteps and established diplomatic ties with the Jewish nation-state.

Naturally, “Palestinians were dismayed by the UAE’s move, seeing it as a betrayal that would weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position which calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries”. Palestinian leaders have also condemned the UAE’s move as it undermines their struggle to achieve Palestinian statehood. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat tweeted, in response to the pact: “Peace is not an empty word used to normalize crimes and oppression. Peace is the outcome of justice. Peace is not made by denying Palestine’s right to exist and imposing an apartheid regime. Apartheid is what Netanyahu means by ‘peace for peace’.”

The Hamas group (the Sunni-Islamic militant organization), which controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, also condemned UAE’s actions. The pact represented a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people, a prolonging of the occupation, and a betrayal of the resistance of the (Palestinian) people,” Hamas said in a statement.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said: “Kushner and his team were scrambling to convince as many Arab and Muslim leaders as possible to attend a White House signing event and give Trump a boost ahead of the” presidential election in November. “They will be a prop at the backdrop of a meaningless spectacle for a ridiculous agreement that will not bring peace to the region,” she added.

Victor Mikhin, member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.

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