It’s official: The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are now less pro-Palestinian than the Europeans.
Officials and analysts familiar with Jerusalem’s clandestine relations with several Arab states have long argued that they don’t really care so much about the Palestinians anymore. In public statements, however, all Arab governments until Tuesday stuck to their dogma and reiterated the need for a Palestinian state based on the 1967-lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just solution to the refugee problem.
Remarkably, however, the agreements the State of Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates and with Bahrain do not echo such calls.
They do not refer to the Arab Peace Initiative or previous UN Security Council resolutions. There are no 1967-lines, no capital in East Jerusalem, no refugees. Even the concept of a “two-state solution” — which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed in the past, and which the US administration still supports — is entirely absent from the agreements, as is Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise.
In the preamble of the “Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations, and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel,” the two countries pledge to continue “their efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi also commit to work together “to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both people, and to advance comprehensive Middle East peace, stability and prosperity.”
The “Declaration of Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations Between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain” uses very similar language.
“The parties discussed their shared commitment to advancing peace and security in the Middle East… and continuing the efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, and enduring resolution of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” it reads.
This carefully calibrated wording allows all sides to save face: The Emiratis and Bahrainis will claim that they stood up for their Palestinian brethren, while Netanyahu can tell his right-wing base at home that he opposed Palestinian statehood and will annex parts of the West Bank in the future.
In their respective White House speeches, the foreign ministers present at Tuesday’s ceremony took different approaches. Bahrain’s Abdullatif Al-Zayani sufficed by vaguely saying that “peace and security is only possible through a genuine engagement that protects the rights and interests of countries and peoples in the region.”
The UAE’s Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan was more specific, saying his country wants to “stand by the Palestinian people, and realize their hopes for an independent state.”
He could have said that he envisions a state established on the basis of the 1967-lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that Abu Dhabi recognizes Israel only in its internationally recognized borders. He could have urged Israel to stop expanding settlements on land earmarked for that future state. But he chose not to.
By contrast, the European Union probably wouldn’t have signed an agreement with Israel that does not specifically state that it doesn’t apply to the settlements. Brussels rarely, if ever, issues statements on Israel that don’t stress its position on the conflict.
Even in its statement welcoming the Israel-UAE agreement, the EU said that it “remains firm in its commitment to a negotiated and viable two-state solution built upon the internationally agreed parameters and international law.”
To be sure, both the UAE and Bahrain have in recent days asserted that they still adhere to the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital. Their positions on the core issues of the conflict, which are similar to those of the EU, have not changed, officials from both countries insisted.
But the fact that they agreed to sign written agreements — in the UAE’s case a full treaty that needs to be ratified by its parliament — without any of the aforementioned parameters is noteworthy. That the agreements don’t even mention the two-state solution — a concept endorsed by the US, which sponsored the agreement — is little short of astounding.