Iin his past As a lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir (pictured) represents Israeli Jews accused of hate crimes against Palestinians. He leads a party that preaches Jewish supremacism between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. On December 1, however, he was invited to celebrate the National Day of the United Arab Emirates (United Arab Emirates) in a hotel in Tel Aviv.
a month later United Arab Emirates Had to snitch on its guests. On January 3, Mr Ben-Gvir, then Israel’s Minister of State Security, traveled to the Temple Mount, the most turbulent flashpoint in Jerusalem, as it is the holiest site for Jews but also sits next to the Muslim holy site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Arab states condemned his visit.this United Arab Emirates Calling it a “serious and provocative violation”.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government is the most right-wing in Israel’s history. Many Israelis worry about what this means for their democracy. Palestinians expect this to derail their few hopes of an independent state. However, a cabinet of ultra-nationalists and far-right radicals may still not be able to resolve the developing relationship between Israel and the Arab world.
It has been condemned by Arab states for decades. Israel did not establish official relations with two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, until 2020.
Then came the Abraham Accords, in which Israel agreed in 2020 with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and United Arab Emirates (see map). Many Israelis, especially those on the right, see this as a sign that the Palestinian cause has lost importance.Arab government, in United Arab Emirates In particular, they see this new relationship as giving them leverage in Israel as a way of softening its worst policies.
Mr Netanyahu’s new government offers an opportunity to test these competing theories. As well as Mr Ben-Gvir, it included the likes of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has called for the separation of Jews and Arabs in maternity wards so his wife would not be forced to give birth next to “the enemy”.
If personality is radical, so is policy. Mr Netanyahu wants to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. He is the first Israeli leader to pledge to coalition partners that he will work to annex the West Bank, the heart of a future Palestinian state.
So far, however, few Arab leaders appear eager to fight back, at least in public.ruler of egypt and United Arab Emirates Bahrain’s foreign minister called to congratulate Mr Netanyahu on his swearing-in. Bahrain’s foreign minister said the Israeli prime minister “believes in peace”. Mr Netanyahu wants his first foreign visit to be Abu Dhabi, United Arab EmiratesCapital.
Many Arabs still support the Palestinian cause: Witness a show of unity at the World Cup in Qatar. A poll by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank, found that only 25% of Emiratis and 20% of Bahrainis now support the Abraham Accords, down from 47% and 45% in 2020.
But perspectives have also shifted in other ways. A Saudi businessman said Israel offered strategic partnerships targeting Iran and investment opportunities in everything from agriculture to technology. “What have the Palestinians given us? Headaches.”
Maybe so. But Mr Ben-Gvir’s early morning visit to the Temple Mount was a reminder that Israel can trigger these too. A visit by then-Israel opposition leader Ariel Sharon in 2000 sparked outrage among Palestinians uprising (uprising).
Such incidents could dampen public enthusiasm for the Abraham Accords. Mr Netanyahu’s planned trip to Abu Dhabi has been postponed. His office cites logistics; that may have more to do with Mr. Ben-Gvir’s antics. Saudi Arabia, long rumored to be considering formal recognition of Saudi Arabia, will wait to see how demagogic the Netanyahu government is before making any decisions, according to an Israeli diplomat.
In public, Saudi Arabia has insisted that Israel will only be recognized after the establishment of a Palestinian state. Privately, few Saudis believe this. Mr Netanyahu has already visited Saudi Arabia and met the crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman. They are all hostile to Iran and believe that the United States is no longer a reliable protector. Formal relations with Israel would provide the Saudis with an overt security partner, boost their beleaguered standing in Washington and bring economic benefits.
Netanyahu himself expects a second wave of diplomatic deals during his tenure. In an interview with Saudi-funded news channel al-Arabiya last month, he spoke of his hopes for a deal with Saudi Arabia. “This will be a huge leap forward for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world,” he said.
He may have exaggerated the situation. Few other Arab countries are lining up to join the deal. But a deal with Saudi Arabia is significant. Even if they are wary of Mr Netanyahu’s government, they are in no rush to distance themselves from it.
Israel’s new Arab friends made unpleasant statements in 2021 when plans to deport Palestinian families from East Jerusalem led to clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and an 11-day war in Gaza killed hundreds of Palestinians. When the gunfire died down, everything went back to normal. ■