Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 476

The Indian Express

An important moment

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Israel’s expanding recent engagement — political, economic and strategic — with the Arab Gulf states has been the worst kept secret in the Middle East. The Gulf Kingdoms, many of which have a strong streak ( an element of a specified kind in someone’s character ) of pragmatism ( an approach that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application ), have been shedding ( park (a vehicle) in a depot ) the old shibboleths ( a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important )  about Israel.

The United Arab Emirates has been hosting Israelis — from ministers to athletes and businessmen to artists — in recent years. Yet, there is no question that Thursday’s announcement on the full normalisation of diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel, brokered ( arrange or negotiate (an agreement) ) by the United States, marks an important moment in the volatile ( liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse ) geopolitics of the Gulf and the Middle East.

The UAE is only the third Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. That it has taken more than a quarter century since Jordan warmed up to Israel pointed to the difficulties of breaking new ground in the region. Israel’s hardening ( make or become more severe and less sympathetic )  attitudes towards the Palestinians and its continuing construction of new settlements in the Palestinian territory were one factor that made it hard for Arab states to normalise ties with Tel Aviv.

Contributing to the difficulty were a series of other developments, including the rise of al Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the American invasion of Iraq, and the Arab Spring. But the focus on the Palestine problem began to shift amidst  ( surrounded by; in the middle of ) the new faultlines that have preoccupied ( engrossed in thought; distracted )  the region.

One is the deepening conflict between the Arab Gulf Kingdoms and Iran in recent years. Second, the Gulf monarchies ( a form of government with a monarch at the head )  were also threatened by the resurgent ( increasing or reviving after a period of little activity, popularity, or occurrence ) Muslim Brotherhood that was seeking a new order in the region and is finding strong support from Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Third, the Gulf has also become increasingly anxious ( feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome ) about American commitment to regional security amidst Washington’s debate on potential retrenchment ( the reduction of costs or spending in response to economic difficulty )  from the Middle East. Finally, the frightening ( making someone afraid or anxious; terrifying ) possibility that the age of oil might be drawing to a close has compelled ( force or oblige (someone) to do something ) the petro-states to reconsider their national strategies.

The Gulf countries have been looking for new partnerships, including with Israel, China and India. Israel has been eager to break its isolation in the Muslim world. With some other Gulf states expected to follow the UAE’s lead on Israel, despite Palestinian objections, the stage is truly set for a major realignment ( the action of changing or restoring something to a different or former position or state )  in a region that is of special significance for India.

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