By Michael Georgy and Lisa Barrington
DUBAI (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Public anger is mounting in the Arab world over one of the largest Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank in years, but Arab states that have normalized ties with Israel are unlikely to turn their condemnation of the assault into action. Israeli.
Thousands of people were evacuated from Jenin refugee camp as the Israeli operation continued for a second day on Tuesday, and Palestinian officials said at least 10 people had been killed. Israel says its military is destroying the infrastructure and weapons of Iranian-backed militant groups in the camp.
The military operation is diplomatically embarrassing for the four Arab states that have signed peace pacts – known as the Abraham Accords – with Israel, and makes even more remote the already distant prospect of including Saudi Arabia in the US-backed push to normalized links.
But analysts said business and economic interests were likely to trump any moral outrage felt in the Abraham Accord states: Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco.
“The UAE and Bahrain view the agreements as durable and crucial to their wider national interests,” said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East North Africa program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.
“But optically, amidst the violence, there won’t be an open embrace of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and certainly there will be a lot of diplomatic lobbying going on to cease the Israeli aggression.”
FROM CONFLICT TO PROSPERITY
The United States has been working to further expand the Abraham Accords, hoping they can be leveraged to advance the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
The hope is also to turn regional conflict into economic prosperity in one of the world’s most volatile regions – and while the Israeli-Palestinian problems show no signs of abating, they do not threaten the survival of the Abraham Accords.
“Israel’s Jenin incursion won’t hurt the Abraham Accords. It will obviously strain the relationship a bit… (But) it will be business as usual,” said Neil Quilliam, associate member of the Middle East and North Africa Program Chatham House.
The leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords at the White House in 2020. Sudan and Morocco followed later.
Israel, largely cut off economically and politically for decades from its Middle Eastern neighbors, sees them as a way to access new trade opportunities in the Gulf and beyond.
For example, Israel has begun cooperation with the UAE in finance, energy, water, security, technology and others, and a free trade agreement entered into force in March this year , Israel’s first with an Arab state.
However, Israel’s rapprochement with Arab states has not been a smooth ride – and it has not been facilitated by the advent of a coalition government under Netanyahu that includes far-right parties that want to annex the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Palestinians have long sought to establish an independent state.
Palestinian officials say they feel betrayed by their Arab brothers for reaching agreements with Israel without first demanding progress towards establishing a Palestinian state. Previously, only two Arab states – Egypt and Jordan – had full ties with Israel.
Abraham Accord states still whine about Israeli policy toward Palestinians whenever violence escalates, but only limited action follows.
Bahrain condemned Israel’s assault on Jenin on Tuesday and called for a resumption of the long-stuck peace process.
The UAE Foreign Ministry has called for an immediate end to what it called repeated and escalating campaigns against the Palestinian people.
Morocco said in June it would delay until after the summer a summit of Abraham Accord nations it is expected to host to protest Israel’s decision to expand settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and after an earlier Israeli raid on Jenin in which five people were killed killed. But it didn’t go any further.
Israeli hopes of normalizing ties with the region’s wealthy Saudi Arabian heavyweights had already evaporated long before the latest violence in Jenin. Riyadh said normalization is not possible until Palestinian state goals are addressed.
UN aid agencies have expressed alarm at the scale of Israel’s latest military operation in Jenin, while the internationally backed Palestinian Authority has said it was suspending contacts with Israel.
However, the Palestinian Authority has lost much support among Palestinians, and international reaction to Israel’s incursion has been rather modest. The United States said it respected Israel’s right to defend itself, but said it was imperative to avoid civilian casualties.
Commenting on his country’s burgeoning relationship with the UAE, Israel’s ambassador to that country, Amir Hayek, told RockedBuzz via Reuters last month in an interview: ‘It’s not that we don’t have disagreements (with the UAE )”. But, he added, it is a relationship that has “passed the point of no return”.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Gareth Jones)