The “Abraham Accords”: A Boon or a Curse for the Palestinians?

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Views from the Region


Last week’s signing at the White House of the so-called “Abraham Accords” by Bahrain, the UAE and Israel has elicited a number of responses from regional observers and editorials. The agreements, which are aimed at normalizing Israel’s relations with the two Arab countries, have been touted by the Trump administration as an essential part of his “Deal of the Century.” However, according to critics of the agreement, the Palestinian question, which was meant to be at the heart of that deal, appears to have been relegated to the periphery. Arab leaders and observers have objected to such characterizations, arguing that the accords will provide more leverage for a long-term and sustainable solution to Palestinian demands for statehood.

For its part, the Palestinian Authority has, according to a statement published by Al Wafa, responded with a swift denunciation of the agreement, asserting that a comprehensive and lasting peace is impossible “as long as the United States and the Israeli occupation authority do not recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent and contiguous state on the June 4, 1967, borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and resolve the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with [UN General Assembly] Resolution 194…. The leadership warned, once again, that no peace, security or stability will be achieved for anyone in the region without ending the occupation and the Palestinian people achieving their full rights as stipulated in the international legitimacy resolutions.”

The Daily Sabah’s Hilal Kaplan likewise expresses his disapproval of the UAE’s and Bahrain’s rapprochement with Israel, characterizing the recent developments as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause: “It seems the key question of the Arab-Israel alliance is, “How much is Palestine worth,” and every country gives its own answer to Israel to shake hands with them on Palestinians’ blood-soaked soil. Of course, Israel could not be the enemy of such infamy. Just think, even the requirement to withdraw from the occupied West Bank to normalize relations with Israel is not on the table, suspending settlements for show is enough – as long as business remains fine…. While Palestine has been the short-term loser of the Arab-Israeli alliance, what gains and losses will be incurred in the long term remain unclear.”

Written after the initial announcement about a possible deal between Israel and Bahrain, this Al Ahram editorial is quick to remind regional leaders that any solution that doesn’t advance the Palestinian question may prove to be short-sighted and short-lived: “Realpolitik reigns over the Middle East now more than ever, particularly when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict and what are described as historical facts that have directed the actions of Arab states…. Israel may forge bilateral agreements that grant it recognition by and coordination with regional countries. However, on the longer term, ignoring the Palestinians’ rights will prevent popular rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world, increase hatred, and keep the conflict ongoing indefinitely…. Forging peace means accepting compromises to create a better future. It doesn’t mean imposing a fait accompli through exploiting exceptional conditions or counting on the world’s superpower.”

Aware of such criticisms, a recent Gulf News editorial pushes back against charges that the Arab countries are selling out the Palestinians, suggesting that warmer relations with Israel don’t mean ignoring or forgetting about Palestine’s quest for statehood: “The Middle East will open a new chapter today. For the first time in 26 years, two Arab states and Israel will sign a peace treaty aimed at paving the way for a forward- looking prosperous and stable region…. The peace accords certainly are sovereign decisions and within the natural rights of the UAE and Bahrain to establish diplomatic relations with Israel or any other country in accordance with their national interests. However, the accords are meant to be more than that. They aim to kick-start the dormant peace process, based on the internationally recognized right of the Palestinian people to their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Others, including Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, writing in Arab News, have noted that warmer relations with its Arab neighbors may incentivize Israel to be open to more far-reaching concessions on the Palestinian question: “Together with Egypt and Jordan, which signed peace treaties with Israel in the past, the UAE and Bahrain are the seeds of hope that are destined to grow into permanent Middle East peace. Until now, the Israelis felt empowered to take a hard-line stance on just about everything connected with the Palestinians, largely because they could and because they had absolutely nothing to lose. It stands to reason that, the more Israel is connected with its Arab neighbors on multiple levels, the more it will be open to making compromises.”

Writing for Asharq Alawsat, former editor-in-chief Salman Al-Dossary turns his attention to what he considers Palestinian intransigence, taking issue in particular with the language used by Palestinian officials, accusing them of being slow to adapt to a fast-changing security environment: “It also shows that there is more than one door to peace, not necessarily through the Palestinian Authority, which was the first to establish relations with Israel, and comes now to consider the move as a stab in the back, only because it does not meet its whims or desires…. It goes without saying that the relations with Tel Aviv, as far as they are not directed against the Palestinians, are a necessity in light of the current circumstances and the countries’ search for peace and stability in the region…. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has no option but to accept the regional realities surrounding it, and to deal with them instead of rejecting them, or at least to stop attacking them.”

That message is echoed by a recent editorial in The National attempting to contextualize the UAE’s decision to normalize its relations with Israel: “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been deadlocked for decades. In the absence of a solution agreed upon by both parties, the UAE’s decision to maintain open communication with both sides could prove conducive for positive change. Aggression and escalation cannot end long-standing conflicts. It is now time to give diplomacy a chance…. The Abraham Accord heralds an era of religious co-existence in a region mired in conflict. It will also bring new opportunities for co-operation between the UAE and Israel, in addition to boosting economic ties and trade.”

The editor-in-chief of Al-Ittihad (UAE), Hamad Alkaabi, also praises his government’s decision to opt for a diplomatic route, pointing out that doing so will prove beneficial for the UAE and the region in terms of geopolitical and economic benefits. That Alkaabi’s op-ed was published by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth is perhaps an apt illustration of how quickly the relations between the two countries have begun to thaw: “The Emirati diplomacy, which was strongly present in the international scene yesterday, clearly expressed its realistic reading of the future, and its certainty that international relations are one of the basic elements of renaissance and progress. It has demonstrated its ability to have a positive influence and carry the Arab reality to better political, economic and strategic spaces, towards a more peaceful Middle East…. [P]eace between the UAE and Israel has become a tangible reality, which has important geopolitical and economic gains for both countries, as well as broad prospects in the fields of trade, investment, transportation, technology, architecture, medicine, advanced agriculture and other fields in which cooperation will have a positive impact on the two friendly peoples, and the whole region.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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