Israel’s Treaties with the UAE and Bahrain: When the abnormal becomes the norm

By Doğan D. Akman*


I am no diplomat. I have no any idea of what was actually said, of the verbal assurances and undertakings given and promises made prior to the execution of the treaties among Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo, and the King and the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirate (UAE), nor with the former three King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Isma'il Alazhari of the Republic of Sudan signed only a preliminary agreement in light of the fierce protests against any signing by the largest political party. Therefore, the prospect of such an agreement becoming a treaty between Israel and Sudan is far from assured. In the meantime, the Sudanese refugee applicants in Israel say that Israel is making peace with a rotten regime and wonder why Israel would normalize ties with transitional leaders considered illegitimate by the pro-democracy Sudanese.

As a matter of fact, the preliminary agreement is far from being on sure footing as the U.S. seems to have some difficulty in delivering its side of the bargain. Two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer and Bob Menendez are reluctant to get the appropriate legislative approvals to remove Sudan from the list of State sponsors of Terrorism and thereby restore its sovereign immunity.

Learning History

I did my middle and high school in a foreign language school in Istanbul where I was taught the official history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey by Turkish teachers.

Although, by now I have forgotten a good deal of what they taught, one thing remains vividly in my mind: their bitter recriminations against and utter contempt for the Arabs whom they accused of having treacherously betrayed their Muslim brethren of the Ottoman Empire during WW I by allying themselves with the enemy and more specifically with the perfidious British.

They did not talk about what the Ottoman Empire might not, or might have done with and to the Arabs when it conquered their lands in two stages in 1514 and 1517 and occupied them during the ensuing 404 years.

From the Arabs’ point of view, the State of Israel was established on a small parcel of Arab lands conquered by the Empire.

In due course, after three military defeats Jordan and Egypt signed peace treaties with Israel. As we know, while neither country broke or repudiated their respective treaties, it is fair to say that the treaty relations between Israel and each of these two countries have remained cold save where mutual interests of national security were and remain at play. In the meantime, in both countries, hate for Israel remains a palpable reality.

After living in Canada for a few years, I started to read the unofficial history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey written by western historians. And despite all this reading, I have not been able to totally dismiss the bias of my history teachers’ in regards to the Arabs.

Nevertheless, I have a lot of respect and admiration for both the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and late King Hussein of Jordan for their courageous engagement in peace-making, although regretfully the former paid for it with his life.

The Abraham Accords: The Accomplishments

So what have the treaties with UAE and Bahrain achieved? And what will the one proposed between Israel and Sudan also achieve?

It is fair to say that the treaties and the preliminary agreements are primarily and essentially economic, cultural, scientific, technological agreements of mutual benefit.

For the hard working optimistic Israeli Prime Minister and his diplomats, the treaties open new trade routes, to new trade relations and peaceful co-existence with two and hopefully more Arab or Muslim countries.

The Abraham Accords: What has not Changed?

Now, it is said that these treaties normalized the relationships between Israel and both the UAE and Bahrain. Someone, poetically inclined, decided to insert the phrase the Abraham Accord in the title of these treaties, the name of Abraham being invoked to describe the treaties as promoting the “spirit of co-existence, mutual understanding and mutual respect” between descendants of Abraham.

How well are these treaties likely to succeed in promoting these things in light of the abominably hateful characterisation of the Jews, and later of Israelis and Israel, both in the religious and secular historical contexts, in which the inhabitants of the region have been and continue to be brought up, schooled and brainwashed in large measure aided and abetted by the regional terrorist organisations?

To this day, in the eyes of the Arab masses, Israel remains an illegitimate entity that must to be removed from Arab lands which she illegally occupies.

More specifically, I will outline some of the data and issues that flow from it:

  • For the UAE and Sudan this is not the first but the second time at treaty making.

  • The UAE Crown Prince skipped the White House signing over Netanyahu’s stance on the so-called “annexation” remaining on the table.

  • All three, UAE, Bahrain and Sudan continue to vote as they did before in support of all the Israel- bashing resolutions at the U.N. which accuse Israel of having committed all the possible and imaginable sins of the world, and those invented for the occasion as well, in her treatment of Palestinians including those who are Israeli citizens, knowing full well that this yearly verbal mob lynching exercise does not help peace-making, but instead feeds the rejectionist instincts of the Palestinian Authority and the terrorism of Hamas.

  • UAE and Bahrain, against a large majority of the UN General Assembly, voted against the Israeli resolution on entrepreneurship which focuses on actions needed for the post-pandemic recovery; calls for efforts by UN member states to help entrepreneurs and micro-, small-and medium-sized enterprises, with an emphasis on those most affected. Surely, such a resolution stands to benefit both countries’ trade partners and countries which are among the most adversely affected by the pandemic in the sectors in question.

  • It is highly unlikely that anyone of the three countries will do anything to stop voting against Israel at the UNGA or for that matter at any of the various emanations of the U.N. where they have seats.

  • Just as unlikely that they would support the dismantlement of any, let alone all, of the UN organisations that consistently and continuously delegitimize Israel, or support such in any other world forum to stamp out the venom of antisemitism of one kind or another.

  • A study released in early November by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel Office based on multi-country public-opinion towards the Israel-UAE-Bahrain peace shows that, (a) only 31% of Bahrainis consider Israel favourably while 48% view it unfavourably, while (b) the corresponding ratios in the Emirates were 46% and 43% respectively.

  • While 69% of the UAE respondents approved of their treaty with Israel, only 46% of Bahrainis approved theirs, as Bahrainis in general show no interest in the treaty.

  • In Saudi