The dramatic and surprising announcement issued by U.S. President Donald Trump, and confirmed by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, on Aug. 13 of an agreement for “the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” which is a “historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace,” was indeed an amazing political development.
Yet before emotions and hopes overcome us, there are observations to make, as well as analyses and drawing an outline for the testing of what will be achieved.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors, and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas, including tourism, education, healthcare, trade, and security.
Hopefully, that will lead to a treaty.
Particular attention was dedicated to the Temple Mount in rather an odd wording:
“All Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths.”
It is odd because, as is known, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the on hand, is the name now applied to the entire 144-square-dunam compound although, in reality, that mosque is but the southernmost structure there. On the other hand, the compound is where the Temple Mount is located, Judaism’s most sacred religious site. And this oddity is confirmed in Trump’s statement:
“This deal will allow much greater access to Muslims from throughout the world … to peacefully pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is a very special place for them.”
Jewish prayer is again shunted aside, ignored and denied. At a time when Muslims have altered the status quo at Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and wish to do so at Cordoba’s Cathedral—not at the least to hold out the possibility of all believers to obtain true religious freedom (even included in Article 9 of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty)—is unfortunate. If “Jerusalem’s other holy sites” is a euphemism for the Western Wall Plaza, an opportunity has been lost to the detriment of the Jews.
The most disheartening element is the suspension of the application of Israel’s sovereignty, as well as the extending of its laws to certain areas of Judea and Samaria, as written:
“Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”
Ninety-eight years ago, in the summer of 1922, the League of Nations, while deciding to reconstitute the Jewish national home through recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” facilitating “Jewish immigration” and encouraging “close settlement by Jews on the land”, that institution also entitled “the Mandatory … to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable … in the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine.”
This current diplomatic development, then, is not the first time a suspension of Jewish rights has been decided upon. It should be pointed out that even Ze’ev Jabotinsky lent his agreement to this. However, he regretted it and complained that it was explained to him by Chaim Weitzmann at short notice, and that had the Zionist executive not agreed to this, the whole Mandate matter would have been endangered. In hindsight, Jabotinsky came to the conclusion that he had been bamboozled by Weitzmann; subsequently, in January 1923, he resigned in protest, also upset at Winston Churchill’s interpretation of the Balfour Declaration in the June 1921 White Paper.
He viewed that the Balfour Declaration does “not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded ‘in Palestine,’ ” nor that “immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals.”
Jabotinsky felt a reversal in policy and intention was being made.
If the possibility of ever applying sovereignty is now in doubt, we can consider these options or any combination of them: the time was not ripe; Netanyahu was not obsessed enough to push it through; or that this is a back-handed recognition of sovereignty, even if suspended. If anyone can be blamed for this situation of an undefined and indefinite suspension, it is all those who delayed sovereignty over “Area C” ever since February—foremost the main leadership of the Yesha Council, who are responsible for placing multiple spokes in the wheels.
We may not have, at present, a Palestinian Arab state, but the alternate option of sovereignty, even partial, is also sent into the future—perhaps a far and distant future. Haim Saban, claiming to have played a central role in this development, is quoted as saying “the deal puts an end to Netanyahu’s annexation plan, ‘which in any case was a daydream.’ ”
As for internal Israeli politics, besides Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz and his fellow party member, Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi, being completely out of the loop, there is great doubt that Netanyahu will dare go to elections now and risk losing an important part of his nationalist base. Of course, he may not need to. Blue and White have no cause now with sovereignty suspended. Israel’s floating centrist population demographic would support Netanyahu.
Jared Kushner, however, may have made a political comeback if this negotiation proceeds smoothly in the near future with reportedly other deals in the works. Whether U.S. Ambassador David Friedman continues on the main team is another matter.
Yisrael Medad is an America-born Israeli analyst and commentator.