For Israel and the UAE, Divergence over Iran Proves the Durability of Normalization

Jan. 11 2022

While the threat of a nuclear-armed and expansionist Iran played a role in bringing the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates together, Naftali Bennett’s recent visit to Abu Dhabi shows that the ties between the two go beyond a shared enemy. The UAE has made a number of conciliatory gestures to the Islamic Republic in recent months, but Bennett’s meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed (MBZ) evidently went off without a hitch. Hussain Abdul-Hussain and Shany Mor write:

An examination of the leaders’ joint statement after their meeting, together with a close look at whom the Israeli prime minister did and did not meet in Abu Dhabi, suggests that it is the economy, rather than security, that is pulling the two sides closer together. Bilateral trade between the two nations reached close to $800 million by the end of September. In March, the UAE announced a $10 billion fund to “invest in strategic sectors in Israel.”

Bennett’s meeting with officials in charge of industry and culture but not security and intelligence suggests that—at least publicly—the UAE and Israel do not wish to be seen as creating an anti-Iran front or alliance. True, during their one-on-one meeting, which lasted more than two hours, MBZ and Bennett must have talked about Iran. . . . While MBZ might have expressed private support for a possible Israeli strike on Iran, he must have told his guest that the UAE cannot be publicly supportive of any such action.

The UAE and Israel share many of the same concerns about Iran and many of the same commitments and strategies—but not all. They are separate countries with differing interests and differing priorities. They don’t need to have identical interests and policies on Iran for a deepening of ties, just as they did not need normalization to cooperate on the Iranian threat.

A year on from the initial agreement, and despite all the sour grapes from critics and cynics, normalization seems to be, well, the new normal.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli economy, United Arab Emirates

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada