(August 17, 2020 / JNS) The treaty between Israel and the UAE places their extensive, yet covert, intelligence cooperation in the public eye. It is a major step in redefining regional cooperation, as well as the political landscape of the Middle East. No less significant is the fact that the treaty demonstrates that Arab countries can establish relations with Israel without the longstanding prerequisite of establishing a Palestinian state.
Iran’s aggression and quest for regional hegemony play a huge role in the UAE’s desire for normalization with Israel and in forming an alliance. On this matter, the UAE and Israel share common ground. In addition, with President Trump’s desire to pull back from Middle East conflicts, the UAE, in close proximity to Iran, must focus on their defensive capabilities, and a peace treaty with Israel will enable the UAE to procure arms from the United States that would have otherwise affected Israel’s military edge. As peace partners, that becomes less of an issue, as was the case with Egypt and Jordan after they signed peace treaties with Israel.
Forging an alliance against a mutual enemy, both Israel and the UAE benefit greatly vis-à-vis Iran. In addition, the treaty includes cooperation in fields such as investment, tourism, security, technology and energy, and the two countries will move swiftly to allow regular direct passenger flights, open embassies and trade ambassadors. (Although it is not expected that the UAE will have its embassy in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem.)
This treaty opens the door for other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit, as we are hearing speculation of Bahrain and Oman joining the latest regional cooperation, as well as interest from Morocco.
No doubt, this is all huge.
However, while the treaty is a clear message that the Palestinians no longer hold veto power on the foreign relations of Arab countries, if some believe that a Palestinian state is off the table, they would be mistaken. With the insistence that Netanyahu suspend the extension of Israel’s sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, this move preserves the option for a two-state solution.
Many in the right-wing camp, myself included, were not happy with the terms of Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” vision, which included leaving 70 percent of Israel’s heartland open for a possible Palestinian state, and are therefore relieved that such a deal has now been rendered obsolete.
One may argue that suspending the extension of Israel’s sovereignty was necessary to make the deal with the UAE. The Arab mindset, its honor and dignity, especially in the face of the Arab world, must be understood, considered and respected. Things work differently here in the Middle East.
But what of Israel’s honor and dignity? Why is Israel’s honor expendable? Moreover, why are many Israelis okay with it being expendable?
My question does not minimize the benefits of this treaty. At the same time, however, I will not minimize the importance of our country’s honor and dignity and the loss of it when we publicly devalue our claim to our own land, whether we actually have de facto control over it or not. Clearly, our control over it is not carved in stone if we require U.S. permission to extend our sovereign rule of law to Judea and Samaria, as well as to the Jordan Valley. To assume that Israel’s extension of sovereignty to its heartland will eventually materialize is actually nothing more than wishful thinking.
Maintaining a country’s honor and dignity is no less important than strategic treaties. They go hand in hand. Or they should. Obviously, they do for the UAE. Israel’s honor and dignity are no less essential.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of our most revered Zionist leaders and founder of Beitar, often stressed the importance of Jewish pride as a matter of our nation’s survival. It is a pillar of Jewish survival to stand up, speak out and carry ourselves with dignity. It is no less a pillar for our country’s survival, when negotiating with other countries, to stipulate that there must be reciprocity in honor. Jabotinsky’s teachings are still relevant today. In this case, the UAE-Israel treaty should not be one-sided, favoring the honor of the UAE while ignoring the honor of Israel. Israel and the Jewish nation forfeits honor when we do not demand respect and when we allow our ideology—our inherent rights to our land—our Zionism, to be compromised. It cannot be that a slight on our national feelings is acceptable. It certainly would not be in the spirit of Jabotinsky to rationalize it away.
Thus, while I am in favor of normalizing relations with Arab and Muslim countries, and recognize the important benefits emanating from the current peace treaty with the UAE, at the same time, I recognize the loss of our honor. We seem to be so used to our government bargaining away our inherent rights to our land, that few in Israel bat an eyelash over it. That, in and of itself, is a sad statement on Israel’s national pride, or lack thereof. Mine may very well be a minority opinion, but I do not believe in the necessity of compromising on the honor of our nation, our heritage and our inherent rights. This prevents me from celebrating with a full heart.
Zahava Englard Shapiro is an Israel-based author and writes articles on Israel for several online publications.
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