Last August, when first the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan signed normalisation agreements with Israel, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, called it nothing short of a betrayal of the Muslim world. Their reaction came in stark contrast to that of the majority of Arab political leaders, who either chose to remain silent or not openly criticise the so-called Abraham Accords. Amid the current escalation in east Jerusalem, both countries have renewed their criticism of Israel. “The fight against this despotic regime is the fight against oppression and the fight against terrorism,” said Khamenei in a televised speech on Friday, Iran’s annual Quds Day, which uses the Arabic name for Jerusalem. “And this is a public duty to fight against this regime.” He said normalisation was religiously forbidden, calling it “a stab in the back to Palestine.”
On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf asked in an open session why the international community was remaining silent, and warned that the Islamic community was standing against these “genocides,” according to IRNA, the Islamic Republic News Agency. In Turkey, Erdogan spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter that Israel must stop attacking Palestinians in Jerusalem. “The world must act to stop this never-ending Israeli aggression against unarmed civilians in their own land,” he said.
Numerous postings on social media against Israel, as well as outspoken messages by popular media outlets that address the Arab world as a whole, have left no room for interpretation. “The illusionary bubbles have burst,” wrote the pan-Arab newspaper Al Araby Al-Jadeed. The Qatar-financed daily named all those who “consider normalisation with the enemy as their duty” as traitors. “There is no doubt that both Turkey and Iran will try to capitalise on the events of Palestine politically, and to attack their regional rivals engaging with Israel,” Cinzia Bianco, analyst and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told DW.
Growing pressure from the Arab world makes life more complicated for those politicians and countries, like the UAE, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain, that have agreed to peaceful relations and economic ties with Israel after decades of frozen and hostile positions. Even at the beginning, these newly established relations were not well received by parts of these countries’ own populations, as well as by many citizens of other Arab states. To counterbalance negative sentiments on the streets, the involved Arab heads of state and government officially justified their signatures with the hope of defusing the Middle East conflict. At the signing ceremony between the UAE and Israel last summer, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan highlighted that both sides had reached an agreement “to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories.” The deal, agreed in a phone call with then-US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also spoke of plans to agree “on cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship.”
“The UAE’s interests vis-a-vis relations with Israel are strategic rather than tactical. This means it is unlikely that the process of normalisation will be reversed, but it is quite likely instead that progress on several ongoing joint projects will be frozen for as long as clashes remain in an acute phase,” said Bianco of the ECFR.
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle