New Arab-Israeli Diplomacy: From the three ‘No’ to the three ‘Yes’

Israel, as a state that managed to settle on a symbolic land of religious, cultural, historical and geopolitical dimensions, is the result of the crystallization of the Zionist dream in its three most influential ideological aspects: socialist, revisionist and religious. These three approaches explain the construction of the Israeli national interest derived from Zionism in terms of the historical incompatibility of potential positions between Israel and the Arab-Islamic world.

The first side came from the ideas of the main characters of the Labour left (Ben Gurion and Isaac Tabenkin), who arrived in the land of historic Palestine with the idea of making the desert flourish by means of socialist settlement (kibbutzim), backed by organized labour via trade unions (Histadrut) with the protection of a strong army (Haganah). This aspect was based on the non-definition of borders to expand the national home when the international situation allowed it, and it wanted to do it on the basis of the dissociation of land and population. Under this approach, the Jew was to occupy the land and concentrate the Arab population in controlled enclaves where the Palestinians would be gradually confined in order to reduce the threat they represented to the Yishuv (Jewish pre-state organization).

David Ben-Gurion

The second side, inspired by the right-wing fascist ideas of the Pole Vladimir Jabotinsky, about the iron wall that the state of the Jews would have to become against the "proud Arabs" who would try to resist colonization. This idea was based on two concrete things: revising the 1948 partition plan to demand for Israel the Arab Emirate of Transjordan and the materialization of the conquest of all Eretz Yisrael. When the Arabs wanted to resist, Israel would have to resort to military force to secure what it had won.

The third aspect was that of the religious justification promoted by the followers of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the sect of "the young neo-Zionists of Kookist ideology. It held that redemption by God's will was approaching for the Jewish people with Israel's victory in the 1967 war. For the Messiah to come to the world, the Judaization of the entire Holy Land was necessary. Israel was the ideal instrument to materialize the dream. The Jews had to settle in as much land as possible, for the preservation of all Eretz Yisrael was not a right, but a divine obligation.

Greater Israel - Wikipedia

The combination of these three influential ideological variants of Zionism has led officials at the highest level of the State of Israel to maintain irreconcilable positions with their Arab neighbors. From its inception, the Zionist ideal was inspired by military occupation, territorial annexation, ethnic cleansing and the denial of the other - the Arab - for the creation of the Jewish national home. The conception of Israel is based on the original self-perception, inspired by Herzl, that it is a people without land (the Jews) for a land without people (Palestine), and that for Europe it would constitute, in the Middle East, an advance in the struggle of civilization against barbarism.

From the beginning, this generated an incompatibility of potential positions towards the Arab interlocutors, who reacted historically with the "three no's" throughout different moments: no to the recognition of the State of Israel, no to peace with Israel and no to the normalization of diplomatic relations. In fact, the Arab League emerged at the end of World War II with two central objectives in reaction to the Yishuv, objectives that are well expressed in its founding charter: to promote the decolonization of all its members vis-à-vis Europe and to prevent the creation of a Jewish State in historic Palestine.

From this second element, it is derived that, even in 1973, the Arab countries coordinated from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to carry out an oil embargo against those governments that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war and, later on, to delegitimize Israel in the United Nations, by promoting resolution 3379 in the General Assembly which, with 72 votes in favor, 35 against and 32 abstentions, equated Zionism with racism and with South African apartheid, and promoted its elimination, understanding it as a form of racial discrimination.

The Yom Kippur War: Australian controversies of 1973 - AIJAC

Ironically, when the possibility of reconciliation between Israel and some of the Arab countries was furthest away, President Anwar el-Sadat surprised the world by visiting Jerusalem in 1977, where he recognized the State of Israel under certain conditions that he negotiated with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and with the mediation of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in the Camp David Peace Accords, in 1979. From being the main defender of Palestinian causes in particular, and of the Arab world in general, Egypt became the first Arab country to seal a lasting peace with Israel.

This step cost Egypt general disrepute, not only among contemporary Arab rulers but also among those of the Islamic world. The discredit reached the point that the headquarters of the Arab League moved from Cairo to Tunis during most of the 1980s. However, making peace with Israel helped Egypt regain the Sinai occupied by the Israeli Defense Forces since 1967 and obtain permanent annual economic aid from the United States for maintaining the peace. Egypt had set a precedent that would serve as the basis for the unprecedented rapprochement between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Jordan with Israel.

Thus, again under the auspices of the United States, the complex and incomplete Arab-Israeli peace process began, resulting in the 1991 Madrid conference, the 1993 Oslo accords, the 1995 Interim Agreement for Palestinian Self-Government in Gaza and the West Bank, and the 1994 Peace Treaty with Jordan. Although the Palestinians were ignored throughout the process by Israel because of the asymmetry of the bilateral relationship - as the impositions made the Zionist government both judge and party to the dynamic - the negotiations with Syria were unsuccessful because of the lack of agreement on the issue of the Golan Heights. Only Jordan normalized relations with Israel without paying the price that Egypt had paid 15 years earlier for the same reasons.

Altos del Golán - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libreWhen negotiations with Israel became unsuccessful for the Palestinians in the context of the second intifada, Saudi Arabia set the tone in the region by proposing the Arab Peace Initiative to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was approved by the Arab League at the 2002 Beirut Summit in 2007 and again in 2017. The Saudi initiative proposes that Israel sign peace treaties with all members of the Arab League. The requirement is that Israel leave the territories it has still occupied since 1967, such as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in Palestine, as well as the Golan Heights in Syria and the Shab'a Farms in Lebanon. It was also imposed as a requirement that it admit a "just solution" to the issue of Palestinian refugees and accept a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Ariel Sharon openly rejected the initiative in 2002; Ehud Olmert had good comments in 2007; Shimon Peres welcomed it, but as no Israeli official participated in its drafting he added that Israel was under no obligation to respect the initiative to the letter. Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, accepted this initiative with some conditions, but not the structural ones; he rejected the issue of Palestinian refugees - because that implied the end of the idea of an essentially Jewish state - and the division of Jerusalem, since a 1980 law states that Jerusalem is the one and indivisible capital of Israel.

The lesson that Israel has learned over all these years is that it can reject negotiations with the Arab community and remain in a position of strength without losing much, but it can in turn negotiate with the less belligerent on a bilateral basis and gain something in return. It is precisely this learned formula that has given it the advantage over each Arab country with which it has negotiated a peace agreement individually, since it makes minimal concessions to them and avoids giving in on the Palestinian question. With the passage of time in the Arab world the accusations of treason for those who negotiate with Israel are fewer and weaker. Negotiating with Israel means a strategic step in obtaining economic benefits for the United States, which, due to the lobbying of the organizations of the Jewish Diaspora in Washington, has established itself as the unconditional protector of the Jewish State.

Israel: La cooperación científica con los EAU por encima de los desafíos de la región – Monitor De Oriente

This is the context in which the intentions and interests of both the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain are circumscribed by their acceptance of the re-establishment and normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel. The UAE is already a military and tourist power, and an important business location, so the transfer of military technology from Israel and the United States - such as F-35 aircraft and tourist flows - is an incentive for the Arab country. For Israel, the normalization of relations with the UAE and Bahrain significantly reduces its regional isolation and consolidates its empowerment against Iran. Both the Sunni rulers of Bahrain -who see in their Shiite community a column of Iran that they must weaken- and the president of the UAE, Khalifa Bin Zayed, see in Iran a potential enemy of both in the Persian Gulf.

In this way, although Israel has had to renounce the dream of conquering the whole biblical land of Eretz Yisrael, according to the demands of religious neo-Zionism of Kookist ideology, or the idea of extending it to the territories called for by Zionist revisionism, the normalization of relations with countries of the Middle East allows its consolidation and empowerment in the face of its historic rivals, such as Iran, Syria and Turkey, and the Palestinians, who are its natural victims.

In conclusion, Israel, under the Zionist ideal and the support of the United States, managed to carry the balance in its favor by getting some of its regional neighbors to move from the three no's - no to the recognition of the State of Israel, no to peace with Israel and no to the normalization of diplomatic relations - to the increasingly forceful yes's in the region: yes to recognition, yes to peace, and yes to the normalization of relations. The agreements signed with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates mark the route of what will be the breaking of regional isolation and empowerment vis-à-vis Iran, so necessary for Israel, in a context in which only the Persian country manages to intimidate the Israeli government.

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