If wisdom prevails, Palestinian leadership should begin to think about normalising relations with Israel.

 

Early in the week an event took place at the White House where seed was sown for ending the decades old and bitter Arab-Israeli deadly antagonisms.

President Donald Trump presided over the signing of the historic diplomatic deal between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, heralding a “new dawn” for the Middle East (West Asia for us).

The signatories were President Trump, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nayan. The agreements were named the Abraham Accords after the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. The US President, speaking during the ceremony, said, “They are choosing a future in which Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians can live together, pray together and dream together, in harmony. This is an incredible day for the world.”

These deals could not have come at a better time for President Trump. To put icing on the political cake, he also mentioned that four or five other Arab countries would sign similar agreements. This could happen even before the US Presidential election on 3 November. Till this week, only two Arab states had signed peace treaties with Israel—Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

While the latest deal in not a peace treaty in a formal sense as these three countries are not at war, it opens up free trade, direct flights and eventually exchange of ambassadors.

The UAE and Bahrain will now be able to purchase high-tech weapons from the United States, as Israel has been doing from 1949. These weapons will include Reaper drones, EA-18G Growler Jets and F-35 fighters. What will these tiny countries do with these weapons? The answer is simple. The Trump administration has been pursuing a “maximum pressure approach against Tehran”, which it sees as the biggest threat in the region.

The Palestinians have called the deal “a stab in the back” from their Arab allies. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh said that Tuesday (the day the deal was signed) would be a “black day, adding to the calendar of the Palestinian pain”. According to the aggrieved Palestinians the deal does not address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reality is that their isolation will increase, funding will gradually be reduced. America has stopped all aid to Palestine. In the long run, if wisdom prevails, the Palestinian leadership should begin to think about normalising relations with Israel. It will be a bitter pill to swallow. We did so in 1947.

How will the non-Arab world react? So far not a sound has come out from the capitals of Muslim countries. As far as I am aware, even China has not criticised the deal.

One hopes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not go ahead with his plans to annex West Bank settlements. If he does so he will be going against the spirit of the deal.

A word about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He was unobtrusively present at the White House function on Tuesday. He served as a Special Quartet Envoy to the Middle East from 2007 to 2015. In his quiet way his labours also, to some extent, played a little known role in the birth of this deal.

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I knew Kapila Vatsyayan for 66 years. She was an extraordinary person, talented and an artist of exceptional excellence.

She was born on 28 December 1928, and passed away on 15 September at the age of 92.

She has been rightly called the Cultural Tsar of India by her fanatical admirers. She never made any such silly claims.

Yesterday I picked up a book she gave me several years ago. Inside it I found a letter she had written to me in September 2015.

She lived a wonderfully creative life, created several cultural institutions, was awarded the Padma Vibushan and was a member of Rajya Sabha for one term. She will be widely remembered and sorely missed.

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Krishnan belonged to the 1951 batch of the Indian Foreign Service. He was one of the ablest, self-effacing diplomats the IFS has produced. He passed away in Bangalore on 15.9.2020 at the age of 92. My sincere condolences to the family.