Last month, with the announcement of the peace agreement—signed yesterday—between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, one respected expert on the Arab world averred that “it’s hard to imagine an Arab country, if it were democratic, striking a peace deal with Israel” and that, moreover, “Israel, one of the region’s few democracies, prefers that its Arab neighbors not be democratic.” Some have taken this line of reasoning one step further, to suggest that Jerusalem is in some sense propping up Arab dictatorships. Nonsense, writes Seth Frantzman:
It was the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East in the 1950s that led the drive against relations with Israel. . . . These dictatorships inflamed a generation and brainwashed people against Israel, even as [they] normalized with other states that [with whom they had conflicts]; e.g., despite the India-Pakistan conflict, no one suggested not recognizing India forever. [By contrast], Israel always had relations with democracies.
[Furthermore], the argument that average citizens in the Middle East oppose Israel, and therefore Israel “needs” dictatorships is flawed. The public that was propagandized against Israel is sometimes hostile. However this is mostly a historical aberration. Israel had relationships with democracies like Turkey, and Iranians would make peace with Israel if not for their regime. Kurds would also be open to Israel if not for Saddam and then Iran occupying Baghdad.
Next, we need to ask why Israel is singled out for being responsible for “authoritarianism” in the Middle East when every single other nation in the world has relations with countries like Saudi Arabia.It is only [considered] a problem for Israel to have relations with the UAE. But when the U.S. or France has relations with the UAE or when Switzerland embraces Iran, it’s fine? This makes no sense.