On initial observation, the deal struck between Abu Dabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Zayed, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Jared Kushner is very much less than meets the eye.  Some usually thoughtful Middle East analysts like Robin Wright have proclaimed this a "game-changer" and a beginning of a paradigm shift in the entire regional dynamic.

I may be missing something, but I don't see it.  What I do see is two modest winners and one big loser.

Netanyahu has managed to get himself out of a mess.  Israel was already decided not to go ahead with the annexation of property on the West Bank.  Trump was unreliable, Biden was opposed, and there was no popular support inside Israel.  Gantz tied any annexation to full-blown US Administration support, which was not forthcoming ( for political, not moral reasons).  Rightwing settlers opposed the deal and were protesting in front of the Prime Minister's official residence all week.  They rejected the idea of implying that some parts of the West Bank might be a future Palestinian state.  They want it all and see Netanyahu as hedging.  After all, he faces jail and has already lost the support of a vast majority of Israelis of all stripes who are sickened by his corruption.  Netanyahu did not even have a majority within his own Likud Party in support of any annexation.  So he owes MBZ a big kiss for bailing out his chestnuts by allowing him to claim he got something in return for nothing.

Trump of course benefits from what he will claim as a major success for his Middle East deal-making.  Of course anyone familiar with the region (which excludes most Americans) knows that the UAE and Israel have had a not-so-secret collaboration for decades.  Israeli cyber security firms have been installing spyware for the Gulf Arabs at significant profit for some time.  Israel and the Gulf Arabs share hatred for Iran.

The big losers are, not surprisingly, the Palestinians, who get nothing out of the deal and will now come under even nastier pressure from the Gulf Arabs to take the breadcrumbs the Israelis will be offering.

Trump and Kushner from the start of the Administration have been pushing the idea of "outside-in."  That is, make a deal with the Arabs and then force the Palestinians to take what is offered.  That is now closer to reality–unless some young Palestinian leadership emerges that recognizes that the Gulf Arabs are not their friends, but their overlords, who fear a democratic Palestinian state will make all of their autocratic kingdoms look bad, and deprive them of the Palestinian talent that manages much of their governance and economy.

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  1. Lyttennnburgh says:

    No surprise here. The United Murtad Emirates have long been beholden to the Yahoods outside their country while living off slave like Indian labour inside their country.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Trump and Netanyahu are both perennially on the hunt for positive achievements – real or otherwise – to sell to their electorates, but I am interested in what MbZ gets out of this. MbZ of course is not troubled by an electorate, and UAE has now been branded traitor to the Palestinians by both Iran and Turkey – and I guess by what is left of the Ummah throughout the Arab and Islamic world. What has been gained for UAE that Israel could not have offered thru the tacit relationship that existed before? For me at least, it is a Puzzlement.

  3. scott s. says:

    I’ve heard what I consider neo-con types suggest this was a big loss for Iran. I have trouble seeing why this should be so?

  4. blue peacock says:

    This doesn’t appear to be a meaningful deal. More political optics.

  5. JohnH says:

    Why would settlers be opposed to annexation? The only reason I can think of is that annexation might mean an end to their highly subsidized livelihoods.. The religious crazies might actually have to work for a change.

  6. mcohen says:

    I think Larry Johnson in his previous article hit the head on the nail.There is a shortage of ammo.Present copper prices are not sustainable and will fall.Only then will there be enough ammo for all.
    Impossible to keep your eye on the ball when you are inside it.

  7. Harper says:

    MBZ is a real wheeler-dealer who is mentor to MBS and views himself as the primo geopolitical operator with his own vision for the future of the region. I think he sees himself building points with both Israel and the US and being able to also maintain the covert business ties to Iran. He navigated a near break with Saudi Arabia by sponsoring separatists in South Yemen so he has shown his ambitions recently.
    Settlers opposed the annexation for both the reason you indicated (loving the subsidies for being “settlers”) and because some believe that the entire area of Judea and Samaria are God-given to Israel and none of it should be given to the Palestinians.

  8. Judging by their reaction Turkey should also be added to the loser list. By extension I would expect there to be an impact on the Syrian and Libyan conflicts.

  9. Polish Janitor says:

    I see this development as heaving a serious domino effect that will significantly influence the security and economic landscape of the MENA region. So yes I agree with New Yorker’s Robin Wright. From the perspective of regional politics I think this development has two elements:
    1. Boosting Bibi and Trump politically in the short-term in their elections and providing them with some breathing space. 2.By establishing bilateral relations with Israel, the UAE will define the political roadmap for other Gulf states that are authoritarian monarchies (KSA, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco) or military dictatorships (Egypt, Jordan) to emulate. So in the coming days and weeks Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and maybe Qatar will do the same. If you look at the content of the joint diplomatic statement, it was all security and investment and nothing political. It is known that Israel views secular democracies and pan- arabism as fundamental threats to its existence. KSA shares the same view too, and so does the Trump admin in its own ways.
    For the regional Arab monarchies, this is a very crucial moment because it offer them a new form of int’l legitimacy and precedent to NOT let political reforms to take place which would endanger both the security and economic (Weberian) aspect of their respective governments. Think of the recent Beirut bombing and the Arab Spring which later became Arab Winter that had a chilling effect on the these authoritarian rulers’ psyche. They saw what happens when political ‘reform’ hits the streets. If you look at the region, the most messed-up countries are those whose central authorities were dismantled because of political upheaval (Egypt during Morsi, Lebanon post-2005, Syria post-2011, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan) and foreign invasions (Iraq, Libya). Many of these countries became failed-states at first place because the primary line of stability that is security and territorial integrity were dismantled by foreign invasion, and then once the genie was out of the bottle and power became de-centralized the political movements followed and the result has been chaos. So security and economic prosperity minus political reform is where the UAE et.al will be heading to.
    Iran will definitely not going to tolerate new Israeli forward deployed military assets under its nose, so the Abu-Dhabi port and adjacent areas with high-value assets and facilities just became a new high-priority flash point in the region. I think Iran will make this very clear in the coming weeks or months to the MBZ and MBS for that matter. Just imagine Russia opening a forward operating base in Baja or China in Hawaii! So this is very serious.
    Turkey is very over-stretched at this point but Erdogan justifies domestic problems by doing all kinds of regional adventurisms abroad in Libya, the Mediterranean sea, northwest Syria, northern Iraq, the new Nagorno-Karabaq border tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia (by backing Azerbaijan versus Russia backing Armenia), in Sudan (a military base on the island of Suakin) and Somalia. In the latter, Turkey backs Somalia, whereas UAE backs Somaliland, so there’s this aspect to it. Last but not least, Turkey’s sunni Muslim Brotherhood will now be able to use the UAE Israeli thaw as a betrayal to all Muslims and an opportunity to claim the leadership of the larger Islamic Ummah (excluding Iran) which is IMO a clever move.

  10. JamesT says:

    “Israel and the Gulf Arabs share hatred for Iran.”
    Do they? The average Gulf Arabs are totally in line with their leadership are they? How do they feel about Nasrallah?
    I don’t know – but I have some Israeli friends who go on and on about how much the Gulf Arabs hate Iran and now feel solidarity with Israel. My reaction is “have you ever actually met any (regular) Gulf Arabs”?
    I have not met any regular Gulf Arabs myself. I have no idea what they think.

  11. Babak makkinejad says:

    Israelis and Arabs hate the Islamic Iran, they would love to go back to the days of the monarchical Iran under American tutelage.
    Significant percentages of the populations of Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait are Shia Muslims, 35% and above.
    Sectarianism, which UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar employed so well in Syria and in Iraq, is a direct threat to themselves and not to Iran or to the Shia Cresecent, in my opinion.

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