Netanyahu can boast about the new peace treaties, but Arab countries are not making peace with Israel, rather choosing a reward that suits them in exchange for the diplomatic price they pay,
For many Israelis, the announcement that Morocco is establishing diplomatic relations with Israel came as a surprise. Anyone who has visited Morocco in recent years has been impressed by the hosts’ warm welcome and openness to Israeli tourists, to the point that it seemed as if diplomatic relations had existed between the two countries forever.
These warming yet covert Israel-Morocco ties strengthened under the late King Hassan, who even ordered the establishment of a Moroccan interests section in Israel after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. His son, King Mohammed VI, finalized it after the second intifada erupted in 2000, but since then, there have been many meetings and conversations between Israeli and Moroccan representatives about establishing diplomatic relations. Years of ongoing efforts finally culminated in U.S. President Donald Trump’s dramatic announcement Thursday night.
Two months ago, Mohammed bin Zayed announced the opening of a UAE consulate in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara. He thereby took an official step, the first of its kind, to show support for Morocco’s annexation of the territory. The crown prince, who has a luxurious villa in Morocco, recently met with the king, and they apparently agreed to try to obtain Washington’s recognition of Morocco’s controversial claim to Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.
At the same time, Trump is doing the groundwork that may create a historic turning point in Israel’s status in the region, but don’t remove the strategic threats it faces. Peace with Morocco or the UAE doesn’t dissolve the Iranian threat and it certainly isn’t expected to sway President Joe Biden to withdraw from his plan to resume the nuclear agreement. Nor can it solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict, which will continue to be the reason for the public Arab hostility toward Israel.
Netanyahu can justifiably boast about the new peace treaties, but his involvement had little to do with these deals. Rather, it’s a kind of smorgasbord in which every Arab state chooses the reward that suits it in exchange for the diplomatic price it pays. The UAE will get the F-35 planes, Bahrain will get American protection, Sudan was removed from the U.S. terror list and will receive vital aid from international financial organizations, and Morocco will win American recognition for its sovereignty on Western Sahara.
None of these states are engaged in active war with Israel and none has territorial other demands of it, since the coffers aren’t in Jerusalem but in Washington. The authority to sign the checks will now pass into Biden’s hands. Theoretically, those Arab states now have leverage on Israel’s policy. They would be able to demand that Israel advance the peace talks with the Palestinians if it wants to have good relations with them. That’s what each Arab leader who joined the normalization festival tells the Palestinians by way of explanation.
This position may contradict the Arab Initiative of 2002, according to which Israel must withdraw from all the territories first in order to win normalization and an Arab protection belt. But ideologically it leans on the same idea of relations in exchange for solving the Palestinian problem, only in reverse order.