Will Israel’s actions in Gaza affect the Abraham Accords?

The Arab world and Israel have significant mutual interests, but Tel Aviv’s actions will distract from that message

TOPSHOT - Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position along the border, on May 18, 2021. / AFP / Menahem KAHANA
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The current round of conflict in Gaza Strip and Israel affirms the urgent need to find a just and comprehensive solution to the crisis in Palestine and Israel. Until then, the fruits of the Abraham Accords will not be complete.

Such a solution must give Palestinians their legitimate national rights in a state with East Jerusalem as its capital, end the occupation and the building of settlements and afford Palestinians their legitimate rights in Jerusalem. It must secure their rights to their properties and their freedom of movement and worship. This would, in turn, provide Israelis with security and stability so that they can live in peace and prosperity in their own state and the region as a whole.

I do not believe that the military escalation in Gaza and Israel will push for a reconsideration of the Abraham Accords. The agreement was a strategic decision made by its signatories. The motivations and reasons that led to it are still strong, present and manifold. The spirit of the Abraham Accords, moreover, is based on the importance of diplomatic solutions and the de-escalation of conflict to create an environment of stability and engagement in development.

There is no doubt that the latest events in Israel and Gaza are a test for these terms. But they only draw more attention to the fact that peaceful and diplomatic solutions are in the common interests of everyone, with the exception of extremists on both sides to the conflict.

What we have seen in the past fortnight ought to be an incentive for the international and regional communities to push for finding a lasting political solution, not just a truce. This logic is in line with the rationale on which the Abraham Accords were founded: facing common threats by supporting stability and prosperity, ending hostilities and getting involved in economic development, regional co-operation and strategic partnerships.

Relatives carry the body of 15-year-old Islam Wael Bernat during his funeral procession in in the city of al-Bireh, northeast of Ramallah on May 19, 2021. The health ministry said four Palestinians were killed  in the occupied West Bank, as the Israeli army said its troops were targeted by gunfire there. / AFP / Ahmad GHARABLI
Relatives mourn the death of 15-year-old Islam Wael Bernat during his funeral procession in in the city of Al Bireh, northeast of Ramallah on May 19, 2021. The health ministry said four Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank, as the Israeli army said its troops were targeted by gunfire there. AFP
A solution must give Palestinians their legitimate rights in a state with East Jerusalem as its capital

Amid the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the UAE has reiterated once again that ending violence, protecting people’s lives and preserving their dignity, along with a two-state solution, is the best way to solve the issue. The UAE has also affirmed the need to protect freedom of worship in Jerusalem for all believers – Muslims, Christians and Jews. This holy city should remain an open place for coexistence, tolerance, and cultural and religious diversity. The historical character of the city and the solid rights of its inhabitants should not be changed, most notably for the Palestinian residents of the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Recent events have also stressed the growing importance of protecting civilians, including journalists, from conflict. It has proved that mutual political compromises, equality and justice in rights for both Palestinians and Israelis are the greatest shortcut to resolving what appears to be an intractable conflict.

The UAE can never accept the killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel nor the killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinians. The main purpose of the Emirates’ call for de-escalation of conflict and peaceful solution is to – first and foremost – protect lives, properties, rights and human dignity.

What has been happening in Palestine and Israel has indeed been a shock to the region. It risks pushing Arab or Muslim countries that were encouraged to establish ties with Israel to wait, or to reconsider such a step.

The psychological dimensions of this conflict are important in our region and must be taken into consideration, even if we agree on the mutual interests of Arabs and Israel in security, defence, trade, investment and other strategic partnerships in the service of a safe and more prosperous future. Lessons must be learnt from what has happened in order to cement the sense of moderation and tolerance that form the basic foundations on which the Abraham Accords were established.

An earnest resolve to shield civilians from conflict and narrow political agendas is what would most encourage other countries to join the normalisation process with Israel. In this regard, the Israelis bear the greatest responsibility for peace.

The more that Palestinian suffering is exacerbated, the more pressures will be placed on the Arab countries that have already singed the normalisation agreements with Israel and the more embarrassing the situation will be for them. Israel should end its occupation of the Palestinian territories and rein in right-wing and violent groups.

The Palestinians, of course, share a responsibility for peace as well. They need to be realistic in their political proposals, work under one unified political leadership, stick to the peaceful means of expression and refrain from all acts of violence against civilians.

The international community, for its part, must help to build confidence measures between the two sides as a way to provide an appropriate foundation for holding serious negotiations that can put an end to bloodshed and enhance peace and stability in the Palestinian territories and Israel alike.

Everyone must work hard, by whatever means possible, to make not only the Israelis, but the Palestinians, too, winners from the Arab-Israeli peace agreements. The UAE’s call for Israel to cease its plans to annex of 30 per cent of land in the West Bank and Jordan Valley in exchange of normalising relations came to stress the Emirates’ firm support for the right of Palestinian people to have their own independent and viable state.

Palestinians – like Israelis – deserve “equal measures”, in the words of the US administration, of security, freedom, prosperity and democracy. This is absolutely the right path and lies at the heart of the Abraham Accords’ objectives.

Dr Ebtesam Al Ketbi is the President of the Emirates Policy Centre