The United Arab Emirates should seek a peace deal with Yemen now

The UAE should now enter negotiations in Yemen, where its military intervention as part of the Saudi-led coalition has unleashed the worst global humanitarian catastrophe

The United Arab Emirates should seek a peace deal with Yemen now
More than 100,000 people have died as a result of coalition attacks on the Houthi rebels allegedly supported by Iran - Photo: Hani Mohammed/AP
English 21/08/2020 18:16 Gabriel Moyssen Mexico City Actualizada 19:02
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Having established a “peace deal” with Israel, a state that never was at war with, the United Arab Emirates should now enter negotiations in Yemen, where its military intervention as part of the Saudi-led coalition has unleashed the worst global humanitarian catastrophe.

Barely a week has passed since United States President Donald Trump announced the “truly historic moment” of the UAE-Israel normalization of relations agreement that he brokered, and it is evident that as a third party involved, the Palestinians have gained very little.

In fact, hours after the UAE declared that their bilateral deal includes an Israeli agreement to halt annexation of Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that his plans remain “on the table.”

Netanyahu made clear that in agreement with Trump he had “delayed” the West Bank annexation plans, yet that he would “never give up our rights to our land.”

Three days before the deal was announced, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) reported on August 10 that Israel was moving forward in its pursuit to build thousands of settlement houses on al-Tur, Anata, al-Eizariya, and Abu Dis villages in the E1 area, within the Greater Jerusalem settlement project.

This controversial plan, that aims to connect the large Ma’ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank with Jerusalem, claimed by the Palestinians as their capital, would physically destroy any chance of a two-state solution including a contiguous Palestinian State.

Mindful of this situation, 15 European Union countries submitted on August 6 a letter to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, protesting the illegal construction of new housing units in Givat Hamatos, located in the E1 area.

According to the White House, the UAE and Israel will also join Washington in launching a “Strategic agenda for the Middle East,” focusing on diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation.

However, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and all Palestinan factions rejected the Emirati-Israeli accord, labeling it a treason. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian negotiator, stressed that neither PA nor the PLO did know “this was coming. We were blindsided. Their secret dealings are now completely out in the open. It is a complete sell-out.”

For his part, Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman of the Hamas movement which rules Gaza—the strip has been bombed for ten straight days by Israel in retaliation for arson balloon attacks—said: “the normalization is a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause, an it serves only the Israeli occupation.”

For more than two years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused all political negotiations with the U.S., accusing it of favoring Israel. The distancing further extended in January, when Trump unveiled a “deal of the century” plan giving Israel green light to annex Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and 130 settlements in the West Bank, in exchange for a Palestinian state and economic aid.

Recommended: Trump's “Deal of the century:” Another one hundred years of injustice in Palestine?

Who is next?
During years, the UAE and other Persian Gulf states have had dissimulated dealings with Israel that Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and de facto Emirati ruler Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has tried to expand for economic and security reasons.

What really worries the Palestinians is the possibility that other Arab countries decide to follow the UAE example, normalizing relations with Israel and marginalizing even more their stance.

After assuming a leading role in five regional wars with Israel since 1948, Egypt and its neighbour signed the landmark 1979 peace treaty negotiated at Camp David in the U.S. Fifteen years later, Jordan and the Jewish state signed their respective peace treaty, in the wake of Amman’s abandonment of its claims over the Jordan Valley in favor of a peaceful resolution between Israel and the PLO.

Israel’s media reported that talks toward a normalization of bilateral ties are also progressing with Bahrain, Oman, and Sudan. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, highlighted that he fully expects Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel.

Nevertheless, Riyadh remained in silence regarding the Emirati action until Wednesday. “From our perspective, the conditions for that are clear: peace must be achieved between the Israelis and the Palestinians, on the basis of international parameters. Once this goal is achieved, anything is possible,” declared Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud in Berlin.

Experts considered the move a bridge too far for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to the opposition it might arouse among the extremist Wahhabi clergy in his country.

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It should be noted that the UAE-Israel deal is also a reflection of geopolitical changes and realignment of forces. While Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun surprisingly did not rule out an accord with Israel, the Emiratis advance in the race for regional leadership over Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran-the latter two countries major rivals of Israel.

The implications for security issues cannot be understated when the UAE has been participating in the Saudi invasion of Yemen, and the oil-rich country spends USD $23 billion in its annual defense budget.

“Just hours after normalization, sources in Israel’s defense industry were talking about the UAE has potential to offset the loss of sales locally due to the terms of the current U.S. aid agreement,” informed Haaretz. The sources said, it remarked, that “the Emirates are an ideal partner, with deep pockets and an authoritarian regime that can make quick decisions on arms purchases.”

The Israeli newspaper added that some in the industry “regard normalization as a problem because now everything, including deals they would prefer to remain behind closed doors, will be coming out into the open.” Israel reportedly exports hundreds of millions of dollars a year in weapons and cybersecurity technologies to the UAE.

Many of these weapons and equipment, such as drones and “smart ammunition” (guided bombs and missiles) are used in the bloody war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in 2015 leading a coalition of nine countries, including the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, in response to calls from the pro-Saudi President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi for support after he was ousted by the Houthi movement.

The relentless bombing campaign and naval blockade, backed by the U.S., the Atlantic Alliance, and Academi, a mercenary company headed by Eric Prince, brother of the current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has provoked the worst humanitarian disaster in a century.

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More than 100,000 people have died as a result of coalition attacks on the Houthi rebels allegedly supported by Iran, as well as the cholera outbreak, floods, desert locusts, and hunger, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least three million people are internally displaced, and almost 21 million of the 29 million population are in desperate need of aid, food in particular. Every 10 minutes a child dies due to malnutrition, diarrhea or respiratory infections.

A July report by the World Food Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the Food and Agriculture Organization said the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity is expected to increase from two million to 3.2 million in southern Yemen.

Ramesh Rajasingham, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said Tuesday that the funding crisis is forcing the organization to make deeper aid cuts, including stopping treatment for 250,000 severely malnourished children in Yemen. The UN has received just 21% of its USD $2.4 billion humanitarian appeal for 2020, he underscored.

“I call on all donors—and especially Yemen’s neighbours in the Gulf—to pay all pledges now,” Rajasingham remarked during a UN Security Council session.

The day before, Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, met in Abu Dhabi with UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths. He reiterated the UAE’s determination to ensure the success of the ongoing Saudi and UN endeavours “to put an end to the Yemeni crisis,” including a ceasefire.

On Wednesday, nonetheless, the Yemeni Ambassador to Jordan, Ali Al-Amrani, demanded the UAE to stop supporting the division of his country and forming separatist militias. The UAE are backing the so-called Southern Transitional Council, accused by the Yemeni government of creating military forces and financing coups against local authorities in Aden and Socotra, highlighted Middle East Monitor.

“These actions will attract more regional and international interventions whose results and repercussions will be difficult to predict and the fire may reach everyone,” Al-Amrani warned.

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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