By: Mohd Roslan Mohd Nor & Li Chun Leong
Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
It is believed that a lot of people are talking about the diplomatic normalization of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel in the past few days, which catches up the concern from the readers. But it is not over yet, the rapidly following countries are Bahrain, and probably North Sudan, because North Sudan is being reported that they are under discussion.
Having diplomatic normalization with Israel is a sensitive issue in the Islamic world. Israel is always being said to obtain the independence in 1948 with immoral and insane measures, which rooted an inevitable and irreplaceable confrontation among Israel and the Islamic countries permanently. In this over 70 years of its existence, Israel is always being criticized to torture the Palestinians for various reasons including to further living space.
For Muslims, they thought that they have duty and obligation to support the Palestinians at any format under this endless humanitarian crisis. They described Israeli’s activities as the military annexation. They thought that all of the Muslims are living as one Ummah (Muslim community, an Islamic type of global citizen). There is a feeling that the Palestinians has never gained the support from the international society, which under the assumption of the -not so helpful- United Nations, they thought that United Nations failed to judge the conflict fairly until now.
They cannot forget the barbaric annexation and torture of Israeli to the Palestinians from the television, radio, newspapers or social media in the past. So the declaration of UAE to normalize the diplomacy with Israel is a heartbroken stab to the Palestinians psychologically. As a result, UAE and Bahrain will face with the harshest condemnation from the Islamic countries. Some of the Islamic countries have expressed the refusal of diplomatic normalization with Israel immediately, like Pakistan, Iran or even Turkey who already has diplomatic ties with Israel however still being very critical to the Zionist regime. They have given harsh criticism to the diplomatic normalization of UAE with Israel, and it is expected that Bahrain will also face with the similar criticism after her declaration of diplomatic normalization with Israel recently. It is quite heartbroken to the Palestinians and the Muslims, especially they will not recognize any negotiation with Israel unless they have clarified the responsibility of the endless of massacres in Palestine.
As we know that the current political situation in Middle East has not been calmed even though the end of ISIS war was declared, the struggle of diplomatic sphere of influence in the Middle East could be said to enter ‘a new normal.’ The Sunni-Shia conflict is likely to have vacuum shortly as the world is now countering against the spreading of Coronavirus. Saudi Arabia lost the regional advantages in the Middle East, because she is blamed to be the source of the rise of ISIS.
At the same time, Turkey also wants to expand her influence in Middle East, thanks to the popular move of Neo-Ottomanism and the rise of Islamic conservatism in Turkey, and also the power extension in constitutional referendum after the failed coup d’etat 2016. It is obvious that Erdogan is now becoming a supreme president, and can be argued that he is now an uncrowned Sultan.
Geographically, UAE and Bahrain locate along the Persian Gulf, which is an important route for the connection of the East and the West, a lot of business ships strategic warships need to anchor or pass through the Persian Gulf, especially Strait of Hormuz which is under the control of Iran. The Strait of Hormuz inevitably became the geographical weapon for Iran to gain more of the economic benefits and the release of foreign sanctions. Strait of Hormuz is quite near to UAE and Bahrain, if Israel and USA get the allies to control or at least to supervise the situation of Strait of Hormuz, it will reduce the cost of Israel and USA in business trade. UAE and Israel want to erase the international stress, especially the ambitious foreign policy of Iran and Turkey. Of course, if we are talking about UAE, usually the people would think of the economic role of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the world.
Some people would also want to give another explanation. Donald Trump is struggling to continue in his office as the President of USA. He might hope to gain the landslide victory in the presidential election in which he is now under the keen competition with Joe Biden. In order to achieve this goal, he needs to show some diplomatic achievements to his voters, because he has been American President for three years now. Apparently he is preparing for the reshuffle of the balance of power in the Middle East. He has warned Iran for the ignorance of the balance of power in the regional context. Consequently, in 2020, the Iran-America relationship is worsened. This is to the extent that even the Coronavirus becomes a world epidemic in March 2020, the relation between these two countries has not been softened. Now he is probably to ask for the Arab countries to show their “sincerities” and maintain the relation with the American government by undergoing the diplomatic normalization with Israel. Or we can say that, Donald Trump wants to emphasize again the role of America in the Middle East by applying the theory of Great Power.
Will it tend to develop as the domino effect? We cannot simply answer this question. Despite some Islamic countries have expressed the refusal of normalizing the diplomatic ties with Israel, due to the obligation of becoming a Muslim leader in the Islamic world, some Islamic countries are expected to remain unchanged and stay tuned for the further development in Middle East. They will continue to express their opinion for the issue and very unlikely to ask for the diplomatic normalization with Israel. It is just simple to be explained by the humanitarian obligation which they will not hunger to engage with the Zionist regime.