The UAE’s recognition of Israel puts Saudi Arabia more than any other Gulf state in the hot seat.
agreement to establish diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates
and Israel is only the latest event that drives nails into the coffin of the
notion that there is solidarity in the Arab and Islamic world.
presumption has long been that these nations share common geopolitical
interests on the basis of ethnicity or religion and embrace kinship solidarity.
the UAE-Israel agreement, there is more evidence pointing to the hollowness of
Arab and Muslim solidarity.
consider the current Saudi-Pakistani spat over Kashmir, as well as a variety of
feuds among Gulf states and between Turkey, the kingdom and the Emirates.
agreement: Why now?
motivation for the UAE-Israel agreement is that both countries worry that a
potential election victory by presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden on
November 3rd could bring an administration into office that is willing to seek
accommodation with Iran.
establishment of diplomatic relations strengthens the UAE’s position as one of
the United States’ most important partners in the Middle East.
allows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to argue that his hardline
policy towards the Palestinians does not impede a broader peace between the
Jewish state and Arab nations.
Muslim vs. Muslim
UAE’s willingness to formally recognize Israel underscores an undeniable
reality that the idea of Arab and Muslim solidarity exists in theory and
reality, it gets trumped all the time by the hardnosed interests that various
countries and their rulers pursue.
comes as no surprise that, as Messrs. Trump and Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Zayed were putting the final touches on their coordinated
statements, traditional allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were locked into an
escalating spat over Kashmir.
spat follows India’s 2019 move to revoke the autonomy of the Muslim-majority
state of Jammu and Kashmir and to impose a brutal crackdown.
countries, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the lead, have been reluctant to
jeopardize their growing economic and military ties to India — effectively
hanging Pakistan out to dry.
Gulf states, instead of maintaining their traditional support for Pakistan,
feted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as developments in Kashmir unfolded.
vs. Saudi Arabia
response, Pakistan hit out at Saudi Arabia where it hurts.
public criticism of the kingdom, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood
Qureshi suggested that Pakistan would convene an Islamic conference outside the
confines of the Saudi-controlled Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
after the group rejected Islamabad’s request for a meeting on Kashmir.
Saudi Arabia’s leadership and quest for Muslim religious soft power, Mr.
Qureshi issued his threat eight months after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran
Khan under Saudi pressure had bowed out of an Islamic summit in Kuala Lumpur
convened by the kingdom’s critics, including Qatar, Turkey and Iran.
Arabia’s obvious fear is that any challenge to its leadership could fuel
demands that Saudi Arabia sign over custodianship of Mecca and Medina to a
contested politics of symbolism
all, it is the custodianship and Saudi Arabia’s image as a leader of the Muslim
world that persuaded UAE Crown Prince Mohammed to reach out to Israel in the
UAE’s ruler is also obviously keen to use his embrace of dialogue with Jewish
and Christian groups to bolster his tarnished image in Washington and other
UAE’s recognition of Israel puts Saudi Arabia more than any other Gulf state in
the hot seat when it comes to establishing relations with Israel. And it puts
the UAE’s Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in the driver’s seat.
all about national interests and competition — and has very little to do with
Arab or Muslim solidarity.
M. Dorsey is a scholar and award-winning journalist. A senior fellow at
Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and co-director of
the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute of Fan Culture, James is one of the
pioneers of the exploration of the political, social and economic aspects of
Middle Eastern and North African soccer.
has published widely in scholarly journals, writes a syndicated column, is the
author of the acclaimed blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and a
recently published book with the same title.
book, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle
East and North Africa( co-authored with Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario), was
published in July 2016.
currently working on three forthcoming books: China and the Middle East:
Venturing into the Maelstrom, Creating Frankenstein: Saudi Arabia’s Export of
Ultra-conservative Islam, and Shifting Sands: Volatile Transitions in the
Middle East and North Africa, Essays on Sports and Politics
two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and a 2013 finalist for the European Press
Award, James started covering ethnic and religious conflict as a foreign
correspondent in the 1970s.
served as a foreign correspondent for Dutch newspaper Trouw, The Wall Street
Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, The Christian Science Monitor and
Dutch and Belgian radio and television. James was based in Beirut, Jerusalem,
Cairo, Teheran, Kuwait, Riyadh, Dubai, Larnaca, Athens, Istanbul, Washington,
Lima, London, Paris and Amsterdam.
the Middle East and North Africa, James has also reported over the past four
decades from most major conflicts zones in Europe, Africa, Latin America and
Asia, including Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Central Asia, the Caucasus,
Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, Congo, Eritrea, Yemen, the Western Sahara, Columbia,
Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Kashmir, Thailand and Bangladesh.