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Editorial: Will Israel-UAE diplomatic relations change structural conflict in Mideast?

  • August 18, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 11:36 a.m.
  • English Press

Will this weaken the structure of the confrontation between Israel and Arab countries and expand an international coalition against Iran? It is necessary to pay close attention to changes in the power relationships in the Middle East.


Through the United States’ mediation, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to normalize diplomatic relations. It is the first time that an Arab country has established diplomatic ties with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.


Since Palestinians were expelled from their lands due to the establishment of Israel in 1948, Arab countries have fought with Israel four times and have rallied to the Palestinian cause. The agreement suggests a possibility that this structure could be changing.


Behind this is the rise of Iran, a major Shiite Muslim power.


In the last few years, Iran has expanded its influence mainly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen through pro-Iranian forces. The confrontation with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim countries has deepened, and a “proxy war” between the two sides is continuing in the Yemeni civil war.


The agreement can be said to have been supported by the UAE and Israel’s growing recognition that Iran is a common enemy, amid the efforts by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to strengthen the international coalition against Iran.


The UAE is attempting economic reform so as not to depend on oil. It may expect that normalizing relations with Israel, which has advanced technology such as drones, will have great economic benefits for the country.


Saudi Arabia and other countries could move toward normalization with Israel in the future. In that case, the confrontation could intensify between U.S.-backed Israel and Arab states on one side, and Iran and Turkey in cooperation with Russia on the other. Iran strongly opposed the move by the UAE.


Japan and European countries must be involved to prevent new power relationships in the Middle East from escalating tensions.


With the agreement, Israel said that it would suspend plans to annex Jewish settlements in the autonomous areas of the Palestinians in the West Bank. The fact that there is still a road to peace through the “two-state coexistence” between Israel and Palestine can be evaluated favorably.


However, Palestine opposes the agreement, calling it a betrayal. This is because Arab countries have historically taken the position that the establishment of a Palestinian state is a prerequisite for the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel.


Peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been suspended since 2014, and the Palestinian issue has lessened in priority among Arab countries. The international community should provide support so that Palestine will not become more isolated and further away from peace.


— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 18, 2020.

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