Muslim alliance a better approachWritten by Dr. Rais Hussin
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a savvy geo-political player in the Middle East, if not the world over. Due respect should be given to them for transforming the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi into major economic powerhouse under Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Zayed, often known as MBZ in the media.
But if the UAE is urging the Muslim world (and others) to believe that its intention to recognise Israel is none other than to stop further annexation of the Palestinian occupied territories, then UAE may have badly confused seemingly "good intention" with horribly bad policy outcomes.
First of all, Israel has agreed to suspend any further annexation of the West Bank of Palestinians, but temporarily, to pursue this normalisation path with the UAE.
Be that as it may, without a clear scope of Israel's responsibility, under an as yet unclear agreement, what MBZ has started is a process of looking away from every infringement that five-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done, especially with the blanket protection of United States President Donald Trump's administration.
For example, according to Peace Now, a prominent and fair Israeli activist group promoting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "during President Trump's tenure over the past three years, 6,800 new units (yearly average of 2,267 units) have been constructed". During the tenure of his predecessor, Barack Obama, an average 1,805 such units came up in the occupied lands.
It should be noted that the Palestinians have been vying to create a full-fledged future state comprising areas of the West Bank of the River Jordan and Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. Indeed, the United Nations considers both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories, and considers Israeli settlement-building activity in these areas as illegal by any measure of international law.
Secondly, while UAE may believe that the decision to stop the annexation may rest with the fledgling government of Netanyahu, the fact is the US holds the bigger, if not the biggest, say on Israel.
Come Nov 3, however, there is every possibility that Trump may be defeated by Democratic Presidential nominee Joseph Biden and his vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, potentially by a landslide too.
This is how badly Trump has mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, causing more than 2.5 million people to be infected between February and August, with 172,000 deaths and counting, with job losses exceeding 40 million in June.
Netanyahu is also facing three criminal charges of fraud and bribery. Whatever strength(s) he may have in his previous tenure, he is losing them by the day, as Israel is clearly badly hit by the pandemic too. Due to his weaknesses, Netanyahu may have to call for an election and the decks of cards may yet change again. Besides, the evidence against Netanyahu are irrefutable.
Between 2009 and 2014 alone, the Israeli settlements under Netanyahu's watch have doubled in the illegally occupied Palestinian areas. There are now 450,000 Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories, all of which are against The Hague Convention that goes all the way back to 1906.
Indeed, as recently as the run-up to the Israeli election in September last year, he had promised to expand the Israeli settlements. Is this the kind of leader with which UAE would like to recognise? A growingly unpopular Israeli leader, whose fate may yet wobble further, with a new US administration post-Nov 3.
The UAE should have consolidated support in the Muslim world first, ideally by creating the Alliance of Muslim Nations, to augment the strength of the entire ummah which, ironically, has been badly represented by the impotent and ineffective Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
One can now only hope that other Muslim countries do not follow in the footsteps of the UAE. It is not only morally reprehensible, it also weakened the two-state solution that can guarantee the peace of Israel and Palestine, if not the whole region.
As things stand, there are prominent public intellectuals who dare to take the correct stance. Two Moroccan writers, Zahra Rameej and Abu Yusuf Taha, have withdrawn their nominated works for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 after the UAE's agreement with Israel.
The writer is president and chief executive officer of Emir Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research
Published in: New Straits Times, Tuesday 18 August 2020
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