WHILE Israel’s historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan hinged on Israeli commitments over the conflict with the Palestinians, its normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates would shape rather than be shaped by the Israel–Palestinian conflict, according to Yuval Rotem, the recently retired director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
Addressing a webinar organised by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council on Sunday, the former Israeli ambassador to Australia said, “Even though we don’t have an ongoing relationship with the Palestinians at this stage, in terms of negotiations, many Arab countries have decided that they want to pursue their own interests.
“Instead of what we did in 1993 – inside-out – having to deal with the Palestinians and then reaching out to the Arab world, the idea in the last few years was the opposite – [it was] outside-in – first we deal with the Arab world, then with the Palestinians.”
He predicted “a constructive and positive impact on the Palestinians to sit down and talk and see if there is a way we can put ourselves into this corridor that ultimately will bring us to some kind of a peace deal”.
“What we have seen in the last few years is that Arabs and Israelis wanted to take the veto power of the Palestinians away from any normalisation or accommodation of relationships between Israel and the Arabs,” he said.
The rise of an expansionist Iran – there are “a lot of black dots” on the map where that country is fomenting unrest – has encouraged others in the region to seek closer ties with Israel. Moreover, the Arab conflict with Israel is increasingly become just one of several in the region, no longer the outstanding conflict.
Rotem recalled the US move of its embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018, in recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, triggered dire predictions of “a chaotic situation” but “just the opposite has occurred”, with informal and now formal moves in the Arab world to forge bonds with Israel. “This is a huge story.”
Emphasising the importance of Israel’s US relationship, he said, “When you look for stability, you always look to America to be more engaged and more involved. That’s the reason why we need to make sure that our policy is going to be bipartisan to bring on board as many people on the Democratic side as possible, especially in the year of an election.”