The path to normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), brokered with the help of the United States, is clearly a foreign policy win for President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election in November. He has registered the continuing influence in the region’s affairs by the US, which helped produce the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt that led to a peace treaty between them, and the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. But while last week’s surprise announcement may have revived the process of political realignment in the Middle East, which lay largely in a state of suspended animation, it also threatens to widen existing fissures in a still-volatile region.
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American interests in the strategically crucial Middle East rest on managing and reconciling the interests of its allies – a task complicated immensely by the historical Arab-Israeli divide revolving round the Palestinian question. For Israel, the expanding sphere of Arab nations that are willing to treat it as an intrinsic and normal part of the region is an invaluable diplomatic gain. There are expectations that other players – Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – might be attracted to follow the UAE, Jordan and Egypt on the path to better relations with Israel. For the UAE, the deal represents a moment of truth in the mostly Sunni nation’s dealings with Shi’ite Iran at a time when Teheran has made deep strategic inroads into the Middle East. The economic prospects are not insignificant for the UAE, either, given the boost that could be provided by the marriage of Emirati financial capital with Israeli technological prowess on the agricultural, healthcare and cyber fronts. If others join that unfolding enterprise, it could alter the region’s economic map commensurate with its political refashioning.
READ MORE: https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/st-editorial/long-road-still-to-peace-in-mid-east