For decades Arab rulers’ betrayals have allowed Israel to grab more Palestinian land under the guise of a “peace process”.
Now the US and Israel hope the latest betrayal by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could see them dump the Palestinians altogether.
A peace agreement, known as the Abraham Accord, will normalise relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The US, Israel and the UAE claimed that, in exchange, Israel had “suspended” the annexation of some Palestinian land in the West Bank. This is hardly a concession because Israel already controls that land.
And shortly after the deal was published, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu made clear that annexation was “still on the table”.
The claim that the UAE triggered the suspension is nonsense.
The annexation was part of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”. US imperialism supports Israel because it is its watchdog in the Middle East and Trump’s deal was about strengthening this position.
But other Western powers—which still back Israel—came out against annexation. This isn’t because of any principled support for Palestinian self-determination. Rather they feared that annexation of the West Bank could destabilise Israel and spark opposition across the region.
There were also disagreements inside the Israeli government about how best to grab more land. Netanyahu’s coalition partner and rival, Benny Gantz, said he could be against “unilateral annexation”.
With Netanyahu facing corruption scandals and opposition, he hoped to appear as a more reliable ally of imperialism.
Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, flew to Israel last month and bolstered Gantz’s position within the Israeli government.
He said they had discussed “how one can ensure the move is done in an adequate manner so as to bring a result in line with the vision for peace”.
In reality, the suspension is a useful cover for Israel and the UAE to make official their already close relationship.
The deal flows from US attempts to maintain dominance of the Middle East in the wake of its defeat in Iraq.
Rather than cementing US hegemony, the war strengthened regional players—and the main winner was Iran.
In Iraq the US relied on divide and rule between Shia and Sunni Muslims to quell resistance. This provided fertile ground for the growth of Isis, a reactionary Sunni group that took over vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Iran’s Shia government grew in strength by propping up Iraq’s Shia sectarian government against the Isis insurgency. And, by backing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to put down a popular revolution from 2012 onwards, Iran strengthened its hand as one of Israel’s neighbours.
The US wants Arab states to unite with Israel against Iran. So do many those state’s rulers—but Palestine has been a huge obstacle in their way. They know that support for the Palestinian struggle runs deep among ordinary people and often fuses with opposition to their own dictatorships.
Until now only Egypt and Jordan had normalised relations with Israel. But the US hopes that the UAE deal could be a game-changer, with both Trump and Netanyahu hinting that other states could follow the UAE’s lead.
Many Arab states have refused to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948, when Israeli forces ethnically cleansed Palestinians. They verbally supported the Palestinians when it suited their interests, but dropped them when it was possible to cut a deal with imperialism.
Because the Palestinian leadership had relied on Arab rulers for support, they accepted the so-called peace process in the 1990s. This has led to more Israeli land grabs, with the Palestinian leadership helping Israel police the occupation.
Hope for Palestinian liberation doesn’t lie with rulers of Arab states, but with the working class and poor rising up against dictatorships and imperialism across the region.