By Motasem A Dalloul
Since the creation of the Zionist Occupation State of Israel following the killing and forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, lands, villages and cities in 1948, Israeli governments could normalise ties only with two Arab countries – Egypt and Jordan – until 2019.
Israel, Egypt and Jordan have bilateral relations, exchange ambassadors, direct flights, prosperous economic activities and good diplomatic relations. In 2020, former US President Donald Trump declared brokering the Abraham Accords: normalisation agreements between Israel, the UAE and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The three countries, according to the normalisation agreements, started normal relations, mutual cooperation and diplomatic exchange of diplomatic missions and flights. The new Arab normaliser States viewed the new normalisation agreements with Israel as historic opportunities for joint cooperation and coordination at the regional security and commercial levels.
Before the end of 2020, Morocco became the third Arab country which normalised relations with the Zionist State. Both countries started normal relations and have signed several mutual agreements, so far. Sudanese coup leaders have announced that they would normalise relations with Israel. However, this did not materialise but, on the ground, there have been high level exchange of visits and meetings among senior officials.
The most common thing across the Arab countries which normalised relations with Israel was the limited anti-normalisation protests in the streets and also on mass media. All of them are autocratic countries, ruled by authoritarian regimes. These regimes have banned criticism of the normalisation, and ordered the launch of media campaigns whitewashing Israel and demonising Palestinians.
All anti-normalisation actions were contained and anti-normalisation news reported only by international media. However, all the sides of the normalisation are still feeling uncomfortable with the Arab nations. Despite the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt having been 33 years old in 2011, when the Egyptian 25 January Revolution erupted, the Egyptians, as they were freely protesting, pushed Israel Ambassador to Cairo out and closed the Israeli embassy, as if there had been no relations at all.
This anti-Israel sentiment was suppressed immediately after the military coup which ousted the late, first-ever freely elected Egyptian President, Mohammad Morsi. In light of such anti-Israel sentiment across the Arab countries, Israel and the Arab normalisers have cautiously maintained their mutual relations and contacts.
In order to let Israeli football fans travel to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022 tournament, FIFA, Israel and Qatar reached a temporary agreement that saw Qatar, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, allowing Israelis to fly directly from Tel Aviv to Doha to attend the tournament.
An estimated 10-20,000 registered Israelis bought tickets for the World Cup in Qatar, the Jerusalem Post reported, but only 3,500 registered as Israelis. However, it was not easy for Israel to find any private airline to initiate direct flights between Israel and Qatar, National Public Diplomacy Directorate head at Israeli Foreign Minister, Lior Haiat, said three days before the start of the tournament.
Since the World Cup tournament kicked off, international fans have showed massive support for Palestine and the Palestinian cause, while they showed anti-Israeli sentiment. Israeli reporters could not find Arab, or even foreign fans, to interview for their reports. This flood of support for Palestine and criticism of the Israeli Occupation have pushed Israeli officials to test the commitment of the Arab normalisers to the Abraham Accords.
While the Arab nations are busy in the football tournament, Israeli President, Isaac Herzog, flew to the UAE and met with its President, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the middle of this week. Herzog reassured Bin Zayed that "the Abraham Accords are a national consensus in Israel."
Herzog, who felt that the Abraham Accords might have been lost, told Bin Zayed: "Now, we have to reach cruising altitude. That is, to upgrade ties between us even more, to strengthen them and to bring more nations into the Abraham Accords."
The visit of the Israeli President to the UAE came one day after his visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, where he addressed the Bahrainis, saying: "You are at the forefront of making history in the region, where Jews and Muslims can dwell together, the sons of Abraham, and move forward in peace."
Following Herzog's visit to the two Gulf States, and to consolidate economic ties, the Israeli delegation met with Moroccan officials in Rabat and signed a gas and oil exploration deal. Israeli NewMed Energy said that it had signed agreements with Adarco Energy Limited and Morocco's National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines.
While the whole world appeared in support of Palestine during the international sporting event in Qatar, Israel needed to test the commitment of the normalisers to the normalisation agreements. It was a two-way test –the Israeli Occupation Forces have been carrying out a "slow genocide" in the Occupied West Bank and top Israeli officials visited Arab countries.
For Israel, it became clear that the anti-Israel sentiment being widely spread on social media during the international football tournament is more than a temporary reaction by enthusiastic football fans, who do not even see the daily Israeli assassination of Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, while the ruling regimes and state officials are still committed to the relations with Israel.
In addition to this, far-right Israeli MK, Itamar Ben-Gvir, received a warm welcome at the UAE's embassy on Thursday, just a very short time after praising an Israeli border police officer who executed a Palestinian youth at zero range in Hebron.
Israeli politicians needed to test Arab loyalty to Israel but, for a veteran politician like Israeli Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin Natanyahu, there is no need for this. He knows very well that the Abraham Accords are stable and strong.
"The Abraham Accords are not just a piece of paper between governments. They are a warm peace between our people that strengthens security, cooperation and stability in the region," Netanyahu said.