After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, it took 31 years for Egypt to recognise it as the first of the Arab countries. This was followed by a further 15 years until Jordan followed. And now, another 26 years later, the number doubles in a month.
The day before yesterday, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, under the leadership of US President Trump, signed the so-called Abraham Accords in Washington. In doing so, the three countries are normalising their relations. What is behind this sudden acceptance of Israel in the Arab world?
First of all, it is not as sudden as it seems, says Israeli correspondent Ankie Rechess, and less historic than Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu makes it seem. “He likes to pose as a new Menachem Begin or Yitzhak Rabin” Begin and Rabin were the prime ministers who made peace in the last century with Egypt and Jordan respectively. “But unlike those countries, Israel was never at war with the Emirates and Bahrain.”
In the background, Israels links with some of the Gulf States have been strengthened for years. Indeed, Israel and the Emirates see Iran as the greatest threat to the Middle East. Rechess: These agreements really do make public the ties that have long existed
The same applies to Bahrain, a small island state off the coast of Saudi Arabia. It is governed by a Sunni monarchy, but the majority of its population is Shiite. Just as in Iran, so the Bahraini rulers fear Shiite influence.
See below the images of the signing of the agreements:
There were also signs of budding friendship in public. For example, Israel was allowed to open an office at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi in 2015. In 2019 there was a conference in Bahrain where Trump explained the economic importance of his controversial peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.
Other military interests are also involved. Rechess: “The Emirates would like to buy F-35 fighter planes from the US Israel was at odds for a long time. Bahrain would leave American anti-aircraft guns to the deal.
Rechess thinks that more countries will soon be drawing closer to Israel. “Commonly mentioned are Oman, Sudan and Morocco.” Oman and Sudan sent a diplomatic mission to sign the Abraham agreements. Netanyahu already visited Oman in 2018.
“It may take some getting used to,” says Middle East correspondent Daisy Mohr. “They have often been raised with anti-Israeli rhetoric and suddenly that has been reversed
But some Arab countries have been trying to prepare their people for it for some time, Mohr says: “Panarabian soaps broadcast around Ramadan contained Jewish characters and also highlighted the Jewish history of the area. That was remarkable
An advantage for residents of the Emirates and Bahrain is that they can now visit the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, among other places. That is one of the holiest places in Islam.
Biggest prize: Saudi Arabia
Although recognition by all those countries would be nice for Israel – every country contributes to Israels status as a full member of the international community – it remains comparatively small beer. The really big catch is Saudi Arabia.
From that country, too, there seems to be a less hostile attitude towards Israel. Saudi Arabia now allows Israeli flights to cross its airspace. “You should not underestimate what that means, says Rechess, so a flight to Thailand, for example, is hours shorter Daisy Mohr: Saudi newspapers have also published positive opinions on the agreements
In addition, these deals would never have come about if Saudi Arabia had not given the green light, Mohr believes. “There are no direct indications that they themselves will go straight to normalisation. King Salman is known to be a great supporter of the Palestinian cause. But who knows when his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, will come to power”
Saudi Arabia has always been the Palestinians greatest supporter. The Arab peace plan of 2002 was a Saudi initiative. It states that there can be no normalisation of relations with Israel until it withdraws from all the occupied territories it conquered in 1967 and participates in the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
For years that was the main Arab dogma. Rechess: That is completely gone with these agreements That is why the Palestinians once again feel betrayed. To the extent that there was any means of exerting pressure to force Israel to make concessions at all, they now feel betrayed again.
However, the Emirates and Bahrain still claim to be committed to the Palestinian cause. In the deal with Israel, it was agreed that Netanyahus plan to annex settlements in the West Bank would be suspended for the time being. It also states that the countries want to work towards a just solution for the Palestinians.
Mohr: The Palestinians see it as a daggerstick, but perhaps to justify it, there are noises in the Emirates and in Bahrain that this is perhaps just one way of securing peace there
Correspondent Ties Brock explains in this video about the settlements in the West Bank: