AFTER the UAE became the third Arab state in decades to recognise Israel last month, it had been predicted that this would create a domino effect, with other Arab and Muslim states following suit. Sure enough, Bahrain joined this growing cluster of states on Friday, while other Arab/Muslim countries may be waiting in the wings for an opportune moment to publicly announce their embrace of the Zionist state. Like the UAE move, President Donald Trump gleefully announced the ‘breakthrough’ on Twitter, heaping accolades on his “GREAT friends” Israel and Bahrain. Indeed, out of all the Arab states, the Gulf sheikhdoms are prime contenders where the recognition of Israel is concerned, with or without the resolution of the Palestine question. The Gulf Arabs are under the American security umbrella with many — including Bahrain — hosting major military bases, while several among them are also on poor terms with Iran. Therefore, there is little surprise that these states are willing to accept Israel, with the US offering friendly ‘advice’ on the benefits of doing so.
The Palestinians, expectedly, are not so happy about the move, with the PLO describing the Bahraini decision as a “betrayal of the Palestinian cause”, while Hamas has called for the “virus of normalisation” to be resisted. And while their rulers are describing the decision in glowing terms, many Bahrainis have expressed their dismay on social media with Manama’s move. Indeed, any consensus on the Palestine question within the Arab/Muslim world is very quickly dissolving. At a recent online Arab League meeting, foreign ministers of the bloc were not able to come up with a resolution condemning last month’s normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE. This indicates that some powerful players in the League clearly feel uneasy about condemning the deal, and thereby upsetting the US.
The aforementioned developments indicate the existence of two very distinct camps in the Muslim world; the pro-American camp, which includes the Gulf Arabs, has no qualms about jettisoning the Palestinians’ legitimate demands and getting on the next plane to Tel Aviv. The other camp, which includes Iran and Turkey, is very vocal about the Palestinian issue and has condemned those rushing towards normalisation. In such a situation, the OIC or a similar forum of Muslim states needs to debate the issue thoroughly. The Palestinians and their supporters must be given such a forum to express their reservations about normalisation without a just resolution to the Arab-Israeli dispute. The UAE and Bahrain should also be allowed to express their justifications for establishing relations with Israel. Making peace with Israel is not impossible, as long as the Palestinians are satisfied that their national and human rights will be guaranteed in any peace deal. Moreover, external powers should not be allowed to use diverging views on the Israel issue within the Muslim world to isolate certain states, such as Iran.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2020