Shifting Sands in the Middle East: Why are Arab Countries Normalising with Israel?

During the past few months, the Middle East has embarked on a new trajectory as several Arab countries have normalized their diplomatic relations with the Zionist state of Israel. What used to be considered a grave sin and betrayal to Palestinian brotherhood is now being touted as a peace initiative. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Sudan have all signed deals with Israel to maintain overt diplomatic relations with the latter and agreed to co-operate in different fields of interest. It is also being speculated that other Middle Eastern countries are likely to follow the suit. Therefore, this Arab-Israeli rapprochement and the victory of the modern nation-state system over Muslim brotherhood produced awe in the Islamic world. Nevertheless, two important reasons can be gauged for growing amicability and bonhomie between Israel and Arab countries.

Firstly, the Middle Eastern countries have fathomed that their development and statures in the international arena have thus far been impressive only because of their oil-based economies. The world is rapidly moving towards digitalization and technology, for which they are poorly-equipped with modern needs. Hence, maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel will not only curtail their dependence on oil by providing them with modern means of development but will also streamline them in the comity of nations by the blessing-hand of the United States.

Secondly, the conflict of Arab countries with Iran is providing them with another incentive to normalise relations with Israel. The gulf countries have, thus far, solely relied on oil. They do not have formidable armies, nor do they have modern warfare technologies. On the contrary, Iran has a relatively better army and might become nuclear power in future. If this happens, the Gulf countries–especially Saudi Arabia–will no longer have leverage in the region and will find themselves in a tight corner. Therefore, it is in the best interest to maintain cordial relations with Israel and the U.S.

In short, the wave of Arab-Israeli normalisation has disrupted the status quo and created a new pattern in the Middle East. It has greatly hurt the Muslim unity in general, and the Palestinian cause in particular on one hand; on the other, it has provided all the normal rising parties with an opportunity to develop their economies and contain Iran in case of a prospective conflict. However, further ramifications of this newly-created patter will come to light in the future.