The Oslo C agreement

The expected agreements with Bahrain and Abu Dhabi constitute "Oslo C" – another stake for the foundation of a Palestinian state. Like Rabin who began the process, Netanyahu is continuing it by selling territory for economic gain. Normalization is the new Oslo. A commentary   

U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi photo by Omar Fawzy/ Public Domain

The expected signing of the normalization agreement with the UAE and Bahrain is actually the continuation of the previous Oslo agreements. If the previous ones were Oslo A and B, then the signing on the White House lawn will be Oslo C. Thus, with another step, Netanyahu will promote the path of Yitzhak Rabin – the establishment of a Palestinian state and the internationalization of Jerusalem. 

Normalization is the new Oslo

These are normalization agreements with countries that Israel was never in a state of war with, and in the last 20 years there are economic and other non-official relations with them. Now, in fact, Netanyahu will give the stamp of approval for the relations with the two Persian Gulf states. Countries under the patronage of Saudi Arabia.  Riyadh is still not officially playing the game. According to an analysis by Tom Wagner (which is worth reading), the reason for it is that the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, is waiting to be king. Maybe he is also planning a swearing-in ceremony at the Al- Aqsa mosque in the media spotlight.    

In any case, the current agreement is sponsored and promoted by Ben Salman and his good friend Kushner. The two of them tried to push the Israeli public to accept Saudi Arabia's peace plan, but the move failed. Then they adopted a different strategy, utilized the concern over an Iranian nuclear bomb, used carrots in the form of a defense and financial umbrella by the US, and pushed the Saudi peace plan - like an inside-out sock - in the form of the normalization agreements with the two Persian Gulf states. The same old thing in a new form.     

Netanyahu, apparently, as part of the game, told his voters, before the agreement, that he intends to annex large parts of Judea and Samaria. The security-related justification for annexation was established in the plan of Yigal Alon that was written in the 1960s. While sending the entire country into a spin with bold declarations on annexation, at the same time, the agreement was reached with Bin Zayed, the crown prince of the UAE. He couldn't sell normalization for free, so Netanyahu gave him a concession on territory. What territory? That of the Palestinian state. The one called today an authority.    

In the same plan like the first Oslo agreements, Netanyahu conceded territory in exchange for normalization with Arab countries. What is conceding territory? When you concede, you actually give it to someone else. And thus, Netanyahu committed not to annex the territory of the Palestinian state. In other words, Netanyahu continued the path of Rabin in building a Palestinian state on the basis of the vision of Saudi Arabia.  

Internationalization of Jerusalem

The current agreements include another point – the internationalization of Jerusalem. Actually, these are external agreements imposing on the State of Israel free access to the Temple Mount for all residents of the UAE and Bahrain. This is not a decision of the Israeli Knesset, but an external agreement that compels access, and the guarantor of the agreement is none other than the president of the US. And if there's something that Americans can't stand in their culture, it's failure to honor agreements.   

From here, the decision to internationalize Jerusalem is on the way. Yes, Israel is the sovereign in Jerusalem, but only "on paper" in terms of the topic of pilgrimage from these countries and others that will hop on the normalization bandwagon. Every Muslim country will want free access to the Temple Mount for its citizens. And if Israel finds itself on worse political terms with Bahrain and Abu Dhabi? Even then, the flow of pilgrims (however many there will be) will continue. As mentioned before, the decision on the Temple Mount is not of the Israeli Knesset, but was accepted in an external agreement bypassing the Knesset with American supervision.     

It is possible that Netanyahu decided that among all the possibilities he had, in terms of sovereignty over the Temple Mount, internationalization under normalization agreements is the best of all.  And there is some logic to it. The two new agreements are economic in essence. From here, the stream of pilgrims from Persian Gulf states could significantly boost the country's income from tourism. In the coronavirus and post-coronavirus era, the State of Israel will need whatever sources of income it can find in order to cope with the rising debt to GDP ratio. 

The elephant in the room: Saudi nuclear capability

How will the Saudis continue to apply pressure for a Palestinian state? Well, it seems that Saudi Arabia is prioritizing two main topics in order to anchor its position in the Muslim world against Iran. If Ben Salman wants to be "king" of the Muslim world, he has to resolve at least two issues. One, a Palestinian state. He won't let anyone else go down in history as the one who resolved the Palestinian problem.  

Another topic is Saudi nuclear capability. Iran is a threshold state with a theoretical breakout capability of 3.5 months. The likelihood that the US will initiate an Iraq-style occupation of Iran is zero. Trump is reducing the US military presence in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. An air attack will not be enough to eliminate what Iran has already built underground, and therefore Riyadh needs a bomb of its own. Despite all of the smiles on the White House lawn, in the end, realism wins in the Middle East.  

Saudi Arabia, on its part, is building electricity-producing reactors like the UAE. In the meantime, it doesn't want to sign the 123 agreement (limiting control of the fuel cycle of the reactors), a decision that is delaying a huge deal that is pushing Trump between Westinghouse and Riyadh. Control of the fuel cycle will enable Saudi Arabia to develop secret uranium enrichment infrastructure for a bomb without clashing with the US. Saudi Arabia has uranium deposits on land and offshore that it is mining with the help of China. Trump knows this, and that's why he is not forcing the issue.   

How will Israel deal with a Saudi nuclear bomb? In the same way that it deals with one in Pakistan and with the civilian reactors in Abu Dhabi. The Begin doctrine would prefer that there would be no nuclear infrastructure of any kind in the Middle East, but reality has its own logic. So in the hallways of Israel's Defense Ministry, people keep their mouths shut and move on. It will probably be the problem of the next person in charge. After the storm.     

In conclusion, the agreements with Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are economic in nature and destined to bring Israel a lot of money during the coronavirus period that has increased the debt to GDP ratio. Unlike the US, Israel cannot simply print money endlessly and develop a debt in excess of the GDP. In light of this, Netanyahu's decision seems logical from an economic standpoint. But make no mistake, the current agreements are Oslo C, and Netanyahu is placing another stake for the foundation of a Palestinian state. 

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