The road to hell is paved with good intentions: Reasons why UAE has erred badly

The UAE should have consolidated the Muslim world first, ideally by creating the Alliance of Muslim Nations, to augment the strength of the entire Ummah.

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Published by Malay Mail, New Straits Times, The Star & The Sun Daily, image from Malay Mail.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a savvy geo-political player in the Middle East, if not the world over. Due respect should be given to them for transforming the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi into major economic powerhouse under Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Zayed; often known as MBZ in the media.

But if the UAE, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is urging the Muslim world (and others) to believe that its intention to recognise Israel, is none other than to stop further annexation of the occupied territories of the Palestine, than UAE may have badly confused seemingly “good intention” with horribly bad policy outcomes.

First of all, Israel has agreed to suspend any further annexation of the West Bank of Palestinians but temporarily to pursue this normalisation path with the UAE. But it is just TEMPORARY. No guarantees that the annexation will not be continued post Israel-UAE normalisation.

Be that as it may, without a clear scope of Israel’s responsibility — under an as yet unclear agreement between UAE and Israel — what MBZ has started is a process of looking the way to every infringement that five term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done; especially with the blanket protection of the administration of the US President Donald Trump.

For example, according to Peace Now – a prominent and fair Israeli activist group promoting a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — during “President Trump’s tenure over the past three years 6,800 new units (yearly average of 2,267 units) have been constructed.”

During his predecessor, Barack Obama’s tenure, however, an average 1,805 such units came up in occupied lands. “Nearly 63 per cnet (1,200 housing units) of the new construction was in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border, i.e. settlements likely to be evacuated in a two-state agreement,“ said the report.

It should be noted that the Palestinians have been vying to create a full-fledged future state comprising areas of the West Bank of the River Jordan and Gaza on the Mediterranean coast.

Indeed, the UN considers both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories, and considers Israeli settlement-building activity in these areas as illegal by any measure of international law.

Secondly, while UAE may believe that the decision to stop the annexation may rest with the fledgling governnent of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the fact is President Trump holds the bigger, if not the biggest, say on Israel.

Come November 3, 2020, there is every possibility that President Donald Trump may be defeated by Presidential nominee Joseph Biden, and his Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris of the Democratic Party any way, potentially by a landslide, too, given how badly Trump has mismanaged the pandemic of SARS Cov II in the United States, causing more than 2.5 million people to be infected by it between February and August 2020, with a death toll of 172, 000 people and counting.

Job losses to exceeded 40 million in June 2020 with little respite since then. The UAE may have signed an agreement with Israel’s Tera Research agency to provide a lifeline, and a critical access to UAE, on a possible early vaccine; as reported by the national news agency of UAE, which is WAM.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing three criminal charges of fraud and bribery. What ever strength (s) he may have had in his previous tenure, he is losing them by the day, as Israel is clearly badly hit by the pandemic too.

Precisely due to his weaknesses, Netanyahu may have to call for an election in future too, and the decks of cards may yet change again. Besides, the evidence against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are irrefutable.

Between 2009-2014 alone, the Israeli settlements under Netanyahu have actually doubled in the illegally occupied Palestinian areas. There are now 450,000 Israeli settlers in Palestinian territories, all of which are against the The Hague Convention that goes all the way back to 1906

Indeed, as recently as the run-up to the Israeli election in September 2019, he has further promised to expand — not retrench — the Israeli settlements. Is this the kind of leader, with which UAE would like to recognise Israel ? A growingly unpopular Israeli leader, whose fate may yet wobble further, with a new US administration post November 3 2020 ?

The UAE should have consolidated the Muslim world first, ideally by creating the Alliance of Muslim Nations, to augment the strength of the entire Ummah, which ironically, has been badly represented by the impotent and ineffective Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). United we stand, divided we fall. UAE has made a serious mistake.

One can now only hope that other Muslim countries do not follow in the foot steps of the UAE, as it is not only morally reprehensible, it weakened the two state solution that can guarantee the peace of Israel and Palestine, if not the whole region.

As things stand, there are prominent public intellectuals that do dare to take the correct stance. Two Moroccan writers, Zahra Rameej and Abu Yusuf Taha, have withdrawn their nominated works for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2020 after the UAE’s agreement with Israel.

Dr. Rais Hussin is President & CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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Diterbitkan oleh Berita Harian & Sinar Harian.

Emiriah Arab Bersatu (UAE) adalah pemain geopolitik pintar di Asia Barat, jika tidak di seluruh dunia. Penghormatan wajar seharusnya diberikan kepada mereka kerana mengubah Dubai dan Abu Dhabi menjadi penjana ekonomi utama di bawah Putera Mahkota Muhammad Bin Zayed atau sering dikenali MBZ di media.

Namun, jika UAE melalui Kementerian Luar Negerinya, mendesak dunia Islam (dan yang lain) untuk mempercayai niatnya mengiktiraf Israel tidak lain dan tidak bukan untuk menghentikan pembabitan lebih lanjut terhadap wilayah Palestin yang diduduki, maka UAE mungkin keliru dengan ‘niat baik’ yang tampak buruk dengan hasil dasar sangat buruk.

Pertama sekali, Israel bersetuju menangguhkan sebarang pengilhakan lanjut terhadap Tebing Barat Palestin, tetapi secara sementara meneruskan jalan normalisasi ini dengan UAE.

Namun ia hanya sementara. Tidak ada jaminan pengilhakan tidak akan dilanjutkan sejurus normalisasi Israel-UAE.

Bagaimanapun, tanpa skop tanggungjawab Israel yang jelas – di bawah perjanjian yang belum jelas antara UAE dan Israel – apa yang dimulakan MBZ adalah proses mencari jalan bagi setiap pelanggaran dilakukan Perdana Menteri lima penggal Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, terutama dengan perlindungan menyeluruh terhadap pentadbiran Presiden Amerika Syarikat (AS), Donald Trump.

Sebagai contoh, menurut Peace Now, sebuah kumpulan aktivis Israel yang terkemuka dan adil yang mempromosikan penyelesaian konflik Israel-Palestin, ketika tempoh pemerintahan Presiden Trump selama tiga tahun terakhir 6,800 unit rumah baharu (purata tahunan 2,267 unit) dibina.

Bagaimanapun, ketika pendahulunya, Barack Obama, rata-rata 1,805 unit berkenaan muncul di tanah diduduki.

“Hampir 63 peratus (1,200 unit perumahan) daripada pembinaan baharu itu berada di kawasan penempatan di sebelah timur di cadangan sempadan Inisiatif Geneva, iaitu penempatan yang mungkin akan dipindahkan dalam perjanjian dua negara,” kata laporan itu.

Harus diingatkan rakyat Palestin bersaing untuk mewujudkan sebuah negara masa depan yang menyeluruh, membabitkan daerah Tebing Barat Sungai Jordan dan Gaza di pantai Mediterranean.

Sememangnya, Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu (PBB) menganggap Tebing Barat dan Jerusalem Timur sebagai wilayah diduduki dan menganggap aktiviti pembangunan penempatan Israel di kawasan ini haram oleh sebarang tindakan undang-undang antarabangsa.

Kedua, sementara UAE mungkin percaya keputusan menghentikan pengilhakan itu mungkin bergantung kepada pemerintahan baharu Netanyahu, hakikatnya Trump memegang keputusan lebih besar, jika bukan yang terbesar, katakan pada Israel.

Pada 3 November nanti, ada kemungkinan Trump mungkin dikalahkan calon Presiden, Joseph Biden dan calon Wakil Presiden, Kamala Harris daripada Parti Demokrat. Ia turut didorong betapa buruknya Trump salah mengurus wabak SARS Cov II di AS, mengakibatkan lebih 2.5 juta orang dijangkiti antara Februari hingga Ogos lalu dengan jumlah kematian 172,000 orang. Kehilangan pekerjaan melebihi 40 juta pada Jun lalu.

UAE mungkin menandatangani perjanjian dengan agensi Penyelidikan Tera Israel untuk menyediakan garis hidup dan akses kritikal mengenai kemungkinan vaksin awal seperti dilaporkan agensi berita nasional negara itu, Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Namun, Netanyahu menghadapi tiga tuduhan jenayah penipuan dan rasuah. Apapun kekuatan dimiliki dalam tempoh lantikan sebelum ini, dia akan kehilangannya dari hari ke hari kerana Israel juga jelas terkena wabak itu.

Akibat kelemahannya, Netanyahu mungkin harus meminta supaya pilihan raya diadakan dalam masa terdekat dan permainan itu mungkin akan berubah lagi. Selain itu, bukti terhadap Netanyahu tidak dapat dibantah.

Antara 2009 hingga 2014 saja, penempatan Israel di bawah Netanyahu sebenarnya meningkat dua kali ganda di kawasan Palestin yang diduduki secara haram. Kini terdapat 450,000 peneroka Israel di wilayah Palestin yang semuanya menentang Konvensyen Den Haag yang bermula sejak 1906.

Sememangnya pilihan raya Israel pada September 2019, dia berjanji memperluas dan bukan menghentikan penempatan Israel. Adakah ini jenis pemimpin yang mana UAE ingin mengiktiraf Israel?

Seorang pemimpin Israel yang semakin tidak popular, yang nasibnya mungkin akan jauh lebih goyah dengan pentadbiran AS yang baharu selepas 3 November 2020?

UAE seharusnya menyatukan dunia Islam terlebih dulu. Secara idealnya dengan mewujudkan Perikatan Bangsa-Bangsa Muslim untuk menambah kekuatan seluruh umat Islam, iaitu secara ironinya ia diwakili Pertubuhan Kerjasama Islam (OIC) yang tidak kuat dan tidak berkesan.

Bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita roboh. UAE sudah melakukan kesalahan yang serius.

Kita sekarang hanya boleh berharap negara Muslim lain tidak mengikuti jejak langkah UAE kerana ia bukan saja dapat dihukum secara moral, malah melemahkan penyelesaian dua negara yang dapat menjamin keamanan Israel dan Palestin, jika tidak seluruh wilayah.

Seperti berlaku, terdapat intelektual awam terkemuka, berani menetapkan pendirian yang betul. Dua penulis Maghribi, Zahra Rameej dan Abu Yusuf Taha menarik balik karya mereka yang dicalonkan untuk Anugerah Buku Sheikh Zayed 2020 selepas perjanjian UAE dengan Israel.

Dr. Rais Hussin merupakan Presiden & CEO EMIR Research, sebuah organisasi pemikir bebas yang berfokuskan kepada pencernaan saranan-saranan dasar strategik berteraskan penyelidikan yang terperinci, konsisten dan menyeluruh.

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