The Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, was also stripped of something by this deal, which may force him to the negotiating table. It stripped him of his biggest ace in the hole — the idea that the gulf Arabs would normalize with Israel only after the Israelis satisfied the demands of the Palestinian Authority with a state to its liking.
(Free advice for Abbas: Come back to the table now and say you view the Trump plan as a “floor,” not a “ceiling” for Palestinian aspirations. You will find a lot of support from Trump, the Europeans and the Arabs for that position. You still have leverage. Israel still has to deal with you, because your people in the West Bank are not going to just disappear, no matter what happens with the U.A.E. and Israel.)
This deal will certainly encourage the other gulf sheikhdoms — Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — all of which have had covert and overt business and intelligence dealings with Israel, to follow the Emirates’ lead. They will not want to let the U.A.E. have a leg up in being able to marry its financial capital with Israel’s cybertechnology, agriculture technology and health care technology, with the potential to make both countries stronger and more prosperous.
Three other big winners here are: 1) King Abdullah of Jordan. He feared that Israeli annexation would energize efforts to turn Jordan into the Palestinian state. That threat is for the moment defused. 2) The American Jewish community. If Israel had annexed part of the West Bank, it would have divided every synagogue and Jewish community in America, between hard-line annexationists and liberal anti-annexationists. This was a looming disaster. Gone for now. And 3) Joe Biden. Biden, if he succeeds Trump, will not have to worry about the thorny issue of annexation, and he should have a much stronger pro-American alliance in the region to work with.
The big geopolitical losers are Iran and all of its proxies: Hezbollah, the Iraqi militias, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and Turkey. This is for a number of reasons. Up to now, the U.A.E. has kept up a delicate balance between Iran and Israel, not looking to provoke Iran, and dealing with Israel covertly.
But this deal is right in Iran’s face. The tacit message is: “We now have Israel on our side, so don’t mess with us.” The vast damage Israel inflicted on Iran through apparent cyberwarfare in recent months may have even given the U.A.E. more breathing room to do this deal.
But there is another message, deeper, more psychological. This was the U.A.E. telling the Iranians and all their proxies: There are really two coalitions in the region today — those who want to let the future bury the past and those who want to let the past keep burying the future. The U.A.E. is taking the helm of the first, and it is leaving Iran to be the leader of the second.