Throughout history, the Middle East has generally been a land of conflict and even more, since the founding of the State of Israel. The European Union has great allies in the Middle East and must be concerned about peace and cooperation in the region. Many countries share this interest and we must ensure that our action is an exercise in reason and the common good. It is truly a cause that needs no defence. But we must, as European citizens, be aware of the current situation on the basis of its history.
On 14 May 1948, David Ben Gurión proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. On that day Ben Gurión defined the Jewish People as those who never lost hope. Although at the time, they were unaware that they would have to keep it up for a long time. Since then, the Middle East has been marked by the conflict which, despite many attempts at mediation, has yet to be overcome. It was not until 1967 that The Six-Days War flared and twenty years after, the Palestine uprising lasted for years ending with the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993 where both parts officially recognised the other. But the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, destroyed all what had been achieved so far. Tensions since then have not ceased but have been increasing.
Another significant breakthrough took place in September 1978 where Egypt became the first Arabic country to recognise the State of Israel followed by Jordanians on 1994. The path to peace in the region was being shaped again. The peace agreements where resumed on 13 August 2020 when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed the establishment of diplomatic ties by which the Israeli authorities suspend the annexation of the Palestinian territories. It was the first Persian Gulf country to do so. And it did not take long for another to do the same. In addition, last September Bahrein became the fourth Arabic country to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
Apart from the great importance of the recent peace agreements and the establishment of full diplomatic relations, it must be emphasised that the international echo does not only include the Middle East actors but also the United States of America (US), which has played a fundamental mediation role. The White House has been the scene of the two biggest peace agreements in the region in recent decades.
It was US President Donald J. Trump himself who led the rapprochement between the UAE and Israel. It established that Israel, in return, will devote its efforts to extending its ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world and, both countries agreed to cooperate and establish a roadmap for maintaining the bilateral relationship that began a few weeks ago. Both delegations began by addressing issues such as investments, security and tourism, among others.
Furthermore, the following month the White House once again welcomed the Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the foreign ministers of the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, and Bahrain, Lieutenant General Abdulatif bin Rashid al Zayani. Trump was also quick to announce mutual recognition between Kosovo and Israel.
In light of the events celebrated by some, others were quick to show their discontent. Palestinian senior official Hannan Ashrawi accused the UAE of “normalising” relations with Israel. It should be recalled that in January President Trump presented a plan for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict that was welcomed by President Netanyahu but rejected by the Palestinian National Authority. What is more, the set of agreements and their possible future enlargement from now on change the game board completely: Israel is breaking its isolation in the region and Iran, which is currently also facing the UAE and Saudi Arabia, is isolated geopolitically as never before.
Needless to say the economic consequences which will improve the economic growth all over these states. These agreements that include the Gulf countries bring with them the opportunity to reach economic agreements. It will favour the developments of the region as a whole as Israel has one of the most developed technological industries in the world as well as it is the gateway for tourism.
This will mean in geopolitical terms the stabilisation in the Middle East. It will improve trade and develop cooperation. It will in fact bring about positive transformation of the region through increased security and prosperity with economies as advanced as the state of Israel or the support of the United States.
The latter is celebrating it as a retaining wall towards Iran, for which it abandoned the nuclear deal Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018. This is not at odds with the foreign policy of the White House over the past four years. With a change of presidential administration in the White House, we will have to wait and see how new team will be handling the Middle East issues.
As in all international events, the European Union, as a strategic player and guarantor of Freedom, international cooperation and the promotion of peace cannot and must not remain on the side-lines of stabilising the Middle East. Any peace legitimately achieved that is good for the international community as a whole is good for Europe.
That is why the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on behalf of the European Union made publicly two announcements of the normalisation of diplomatic and state relations between the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain with Israel. One of the statements reads: “For many years, the EU has promoted the development of relations between Israel and the countries of the region. Both Israel and the United Arab Emirates are important partners of the European Union. The normalisation of their bilateral relations will be beneficial for both countries and a fundamental step towards the stabilisation of the whole region. We remain committed to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace for the entire region”.
There is still a long way to go, as the US President announced that we will soon see five more countries joining the total normalisation of diplomatic relations. Let this story record that it was also Europe that laid one of the foundations. It would appear, therefore, that although much work remains to be done, we are approaching the triumph of hope on which the Jewish people have relied throughout their history. But it is our duty not only to maintain it, but also to lay it with our own efforts. Hope is the means; the end will be peace and cooperation in the Middle East.