Monday, October 19, 2020


  
What do the UAE and Bahrain get out of the Abraham Accords?

Putting aside an ally against the threat of Iran there are benefits in terms of trade and commerce.

And technology.

WIRED quotes Kushal Shah, of the consulting company Roland Berger on how the UAE, already an innovation hub in the MidEast, benefits from the agreement:
“The Israel tech sector is super advanced, so obtaining some of that knowhow—the sharing of studies, research and development—will help expand and improve the UAE’s talent pool. Education for the UAE tech sector will be massive. The post-grad learning opportunities are substantial.”
But while Israel is an acknowledged leader in global technology, it's not as if Israel is late to the game.

Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote a doctoral thesis a month before the outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War. It was later published and then appeared in English as Arab Attitudes To Israel. In a chapter on Israel, he has a section on Favourable and Ambivalent References.

In the introduction to his book, Harkabi writes:
The Arab attitude to Israel is, of course, affected by the vicissitudes of time and war can certainly change public attitudes and make descriptions of previous situations out of date. It seems, however, that my description of the attitude is still valid. [p. xv; all quotes are from the English edition]
Let's see if Harkabi is right.

He writes that the many pejorative Arab statements he quotes in his book are not the whole story. Instead, there were statements made in the Arab world that praised Israel and presented it as a model to be imitated. In 1955, no less than Nasser himself recommended in a speech in Gaza:
All I ask of you is to persevere, and unite, and act, and be patient, and take an example and a lesson. [emphasis added; p. 337]
A lesson in what?

Harkabi sums it up that in the Arab praises of Israel,
major prominence is given to her efficiency and modernity, her achievements in technology and science, her thorough planning instead of improvisation. Israel stands for dynamic enterprise and achievement. [emphasis added]
Of course, these compliments are not for the sake of praising Israel, but rather to point out attributes that the Arabs should imitate -- especially the Palestinian Arabs. Harkabi refers to Arnold Hottinger's book, The Arabs: Their History, Culture and Place in the Modern World where he writes of the Palestinian Arabs that they view Israel's victory in 1948 as being because of her modernity, an ideal to be imitated.

This recognition of Israeli accomplishments in science and technology even led to arguments among the Arabs themselves.

In 1962, The Syrian prime minister, Nazim al-Qudsi spoke to students and noted the high percentage of engineers and physicians in Israel -- and emphasized the need for Syria and other Arab countries to follow suit. For that, he was severely criticized by Cairo Radio and the Egyptian press.

A Damascus Radio commentator snapped back:
Qudsi drew the attention of the Arab nation to the truth: Israel our enemy is not--as Nasserist propaganda describes her--weak and unstable in her social structure; she is a State with various possibilities and human potential. By revealing this truth, Qudsi is stimulating the Arabs to comprehensive action and progress in all fields. [p. 337]
Aref al-Aref, a journalist, historian and former mayor of East Jerusalem, wrote in his book The Disaster about how Jews study and delve into matters. Similarly, Walid Qamhawi -- who later led the Palestinian National Fund -- praises Israel numerous times in his book Disaster and Reconstruction. [p. 338]

So, no, Israel did not just suddenly appear on the world stage as a modern leader in technology.
And it's not as if the Arab world is only now recognizing that fact and wanting to emulate it -- the same attitude of admiration for Israeli technological prowess existed back then too.

So why is it only now that countries in the Arab world, including those who already have covert relations with Israel, willing to step forward to sign agreements -- and even normalize relations -- with Israel?

One reason, of course, is the threat of Iran

But another reason is how the Middle East has changed.

In the course of a wide-ranging interview he did back in August with Yishai Fleisher, Dr. Mordechai Kedar explains the Abraham Accords against the background of Middle East history over the past 30+ years.

Dr. Kedar notes how radical leaders such as Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Hafez Al-Assad of Syria, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya once dominated the Middle East, under the aegis of the then Soviet Union and wanted to unite the Arab world.

In such a situation, more-traditional Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman felt under threat from these radical leaders who considered those countries as counter-revolutionaries because they stuck with the old traditions and did not actively partake in their attacks on Israel.

But now, over the past 10 years, things have changed.
The Arab countries that once were in the forefront, no longer are.
Syria is suffering from a bloodbath
o  Iraq is dysfunctional
o  Libya is a swamp of problems
o  Egypt has its own problems with the Nile, rapid population growth and unemployment
Under such conditions, the dream of Arab nationalism has been a failure.
And Israel is not the enemy anymore.

Egypt made peace, albeit a cold one, with Israel.
Likewise, Jordan has a 'cold' peace with Israel.

Between Egypt and Jordan on the one hand, and these dysfunctional states on the other, Saudi Arabia and the other traditional countries feel free to pursue their own interests -- and those interests include living in peace, developing their countries and preparing the day when their oil runs out.

That means working with those countries that are leading the way in progress.
And that means working with Israel.

That segment begins at 22:54 below automatically.

  

That is quite a change.

But this is not to say that the road to real peace is certain and secure.

It is not.

Dr. Kedar points out that during the 1990's, both Qatar and Tunisia had good relations with Israel to the extent that Israel opened commercial offices in those countries flying the Israeli flag. Those were not embassies, but they were still official.

Both countries canceled their agreements with Israel following the outbreak of the second intifada.

An agreement can be breached.
It remains to be seen whether the Abraham Accords will meet expectations.



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