UAE ties with Israel show how region is changing, former US envoy says

Former US peace negotiator expects more Arab states to follow the UAE’s lead

'Sudan and Oman next to make peace with Israel'

'Sudan and Oman next to make peace with Israel'
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The Abraham Accord to normalise ties between the UAE and Israel is a natural progression of regional shifts and puts governance ahead of past grievances, former US peace negotiator Dennis Ross said.

Mr Ross, who worked on US peace negotiations between Arabs and Israelis during four previous Democratic and Republican administrations, said challenges relating to security, water, cybersecurity issues, health and technology could no longer be put on hold.

The UAE highlighted the benefits of greater co-operation from the accord, with Bahrain also announcing that it would normalise relations with Israel a few weeks later.

“The accords are significant in telling us how the region is changing," said Mr Ross, now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"We are seeing how Arab states are sending a message that they are looking after their national interest.

"It doesn’t mean they are forgetting about the Palestinians but they are sending a message of realities in the region and needs that they have.

“The Emirates imposed linkage, they didn’t walk away from the Palestinian issue.".

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Dennis Ross, a former US peace negotiator, is the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute. Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Mr Ross was referring to Israel suspending its planned annexation of occupied Palestinian land under the agreement.

He said this prevented the worst outcome for the Palestinians, which would have permanently derailed a two-state solution.

“If the annexation had gone ahead, you wouldn’t have seen UAE do this, and if UAE hadn’t done it, Bahrain wouldn’t do it," Mr Ross said

The accords differed from previous peace agreements with Israel by Egypt and Jordan in emphasising people-to-people relations and not involving territory, said Mr Ross, who worked on the Camp David talks, the Oslo agreements, Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and the Hebron agreement.

“Both those countries were in a state of war with Israel. Bahrain and UAE have no common border with Israel, no territorial conflict.”

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 31, 2020, the Emirati, Israeli and US flags are picture attached to an air-plane of Israel's El Al, adorned with the word "peace" in Arabic, English and Hebrew, upon it's arrival at the Abu Dhabi airport in the first-ever commercial flight from Israel to the UAE. Israel and the United Arab Emirates will sign a US-brokered agreement normalizing their relations at the White House on September 15, 2020 a US official said on September 8. / AFP / KARIM SAHIB
In this file photo taken on August 31, 2020, the Emirati, Israeli and US flags are flown from the cockpit of Israel's El Al jet, adorned with the word "peace" in Arabic, English and Hebrew, upon its arrival at Abu Dhabi. AF

Mr Ross expected other countries to follow suit in normalising ties with Israel, starting with Sudan and Oman.

“I would put Morocco after that,” he said.

In five years, most Arab Gulf countries with the exception of Kuwait and Qatar could have peace agreements with Israel, he said.

But in the case of Saudi Arabia, it might be gradual.

“Saudis are not going to take this kind of a step [soon], but it doesn’t mean they won’t take partial steps," Mr Ross said.

“The two that would hold out are Qatar and Kuwait. The others [in the Gulf] in five years from now are very likely.”

He said Doha’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey would delay such action.

Mr Ross urged the Palestinian Authority to come to the table and reduce its association with “forces of rejection”, namely Turkey, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The former envoy said the PA would be making a mistake in assuming that a Joe Biden administration, if the Democratic nominee won the November presidential election, would bring a transformative approach to the conflict.

“A Biden administration is not going to come in and present its own peace plan because they realise the divide [between Israelis and Palestinians] is too great to bridge," Mr Ross said.

"What they will do is try to build on what is happening right now in brokering Arab-Israeli agreements."

If President Donald Trump wins a second term, Mr Ross expects the PA to make its way back to the negotiating table.

But mostly, he said, the normalisation agreements are an end result of convergence of views between the parties on regional threats, a realisation that the US is less reliable and that Israel is part of the region.