The Rome MED This Week newsletter provides expert analysis and informed comments on the most significant issues and trends in the MENA region. Today, we turn the spotlight on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the MENA region.
Media and commentators have hailed the Trump-brokered agreement signed by Israel with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as historic.
The agreement is historic insofar as “it’s the first open acknowledgement of Israel’s hitherto secret alliance with Arab Gulf nations and the willingness of the Emiratis and Bahrainis to ‘normalize’ relations is a major breakthrough for Israel”, as Haaretz put it.
Although the Mediterranean was traditionally an afterthought in Israeli geopolitical thinking, the 2000s recorded a shift: Israel is turning to the sea. The Mediterranean is capturing a growing role in Israeli geostrategic thinking. This is in large part the result of the discovery and development of gas in the Mediterranean Sea beginning in the late 1990s.
Over the past 20 years the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been put in the background, not to say almost avoided, within Israel's political and public debate. Undoubtedly this was one consequence of the fact that the Oslo Process culminated with the half-failure of the Camp David summit. Even more, however, the debate was watered down by the attitude of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made ambiguity and the status-quo the guidelines defining his position on the Palestinian issue.
Warnings from the Arab world against the Israeli government’s plan to annex territories in the West Bank have been mounting in recent weeks. Various Arab leaders conveyed, in public and in private, messages that annexation will radicalize Palestinians, damage the peace process, prevent normalization of Israel-Arab ties, jeopardize regional stability, could ignite a religious war, and will be considered a crime.
Israel's plan to annex the West Bank plan is viewed with great concern by Turkey along with the rest of the world. However, unlike other countries, Turkey is more sensitive to this issue. The Muslim majority of the Turkish population has heard and has sympathy for the oppressed Palestinian people in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Turkey has long been following international law with consistent policies, separating Turkey from all the other actors.
That some of the Gulf monarchies, in the past few years, have been quietly but surely interested in normalising relations with Israel, is no longer much of a secret. A convergence of geopolitical visions and interests have encouraged some warming up to the Israeli leadership, first and foremost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in some Gulf capitals.
The decision making in Egyptian foreign policy reflects the strategic and geopolitical culture of the State. Remarkably enough, it never loses sight of the long-term considerations. Therefore, it is often reluctant to cut the gordian knots. Security considerations are more important than economic and commercial ones. Of course, the president is the ultimate decision maker, but most decisions are the fruit of considerable brainstorming in the regalian institutions and the foreign policy community.
Jordan’s opposition to Israel’s planned annexation of lands in the West Bank has been expressed clearly by King Abdullah II, and his Majesty has left no stone unturned in his mission to declare Jordan’s stance against Israel’s annexation proposals universally.