Another Acre, Another Goat: Israel in the Middle East

Abraham Accord signing ceremony in Washington. (Photo: Wikimedia)

By Reza Behnam

In the early 1900s, Zionism’s founders laid out their strategy to build a Jewish state in Palestine. According to the plan, colonization had to be slow and covert, beginning with small land acquisitions. In the words of Zionist leader, Chaim Weizmann, “another acre, another goat.”

Zionism’s strategy of gaining Palestinian land here and there through creeping annexation has expanded to include land taken by force. Force, whether diplomatic or military, has been a building block of the Jewish state. “Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force;” so said militant Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky.

Israel’s annexation strategy is no longer “another goat,” it is instead, “another acre, another Arab dictator.” Establishing diplomatic ties with Arab despots is in keeping with Zionist goals laid out by leaders such as Weizmann.

The “Abraham Accords” of September 2020, establishing full diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel, reveal the seminal role the United States has played as a guarantor of Israel’s expansionist objectives. The agreements also demonstrate Washington’s willingness to put partnerships with oppressive, authoritarian and expansionist regimes over human rights.

A state built on a foundation of domination can never be stable or at peace with its neighbors. Since 1948, Israel has depended on the United States for legitimacy and security. Israel’s leaders have labored to maximize and deepen America’s commitment and involvement in accomplishing their objectives in Palestine. After a half-century of unwavering support, it has become virtually impossible for Washington to imagine a regional reality other than that proffered by Israel.

 The UAE-Bahrain deals have made Israel’s leaders all the more confident that they do not have to reckon with the catastrophe they have created in Palestine. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brazenly stated that the deal confirms that Israel does not need to withdraw from occupied West Bank land in order to achieve normalization with Arab states.

With US backing, Israel has had carte blanche in the region. The rulers of the UAE and Bahrain have determined that their security and longevity is bound up with the two regional powers and that they should make their years of furtive cooperation official.

Bahrain has served as Washington’s footman for decades. The tiny Persian Gulf state has been home to the US naval command headquarters for the Gulf region since 1948, it has had a formal Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States since 1991 and in 1992 was designated by Washington as a major non-NATO ally

With a restive majority Shiite population—estimated at 70 per cent—Bahrain’s ruling Sunni monarch is eager to maintain the status quo and to crush any opposition to his government. Despite Bahrain’s abysmal human rights record, Washington has been well-disposed to provide the regime access to sophisticated US weapons and training.

Bahrain’s domestic security and political agenda are dominated by Saudi Arabia.   It was Saudi troops that helped suppress a popular uprising there during the Arab Spring of 2011. Clearly, Bahrain’s alliance with Israel had the blessing of Riyadh.

Like Bahrain’s ruler, Emirati dictator, Mohammad bin Zayed, runs a sophisticated surveillance state, which he uses to crack down on all forms of domestic dissent.   The security and intelligence arrangement with Israel will provide him protection against his own people.

The UAE, prepared to underwrite Washington’s policies, will be allowed to purchase more and higher quality US weapons and will face no opposition from Washington as it continues its destructive and expansionist policies in Yemen, Libya and Qatar.

The Emirati and Bahraini rulers would be wise to draw some lessons from Egypt’s dealings with the United States and Israel.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Condemned throughout the Arab world, Sadat’s decision sparked decades of conflict. His assassination in 1981 led to three decades of oppressive rule by his successor, Hosni Mubarak.

The 1978 Camp David Accords and peace treaty that followed left the Arabs further divided and removed Egyptian military pressure from Israel, freeing Tel Aviv to continue its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights. The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty also removed the urgency of addressing Palestinian sovereignty.

Although the peace initiatives outlined in the accords were never achieved, Egypt continues to receive $1.3 billion in US military aid agreed upon in the treaty—Israel receives $3 billion. Each year US largesse flows to Egyptian military dictator General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi—whose regime has been described as one of the most repressive in Egypt’s history.

With one in three Egyptians living in poverty and over 60,000 political prisoners in jail, it is difficult to see how the Egyptian people have benefited from the treaty with Israel.

The irony of the UAE-Bahrain accords is that they reward Israel for threatening a hostile, illegal act—annexing the little that remains of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu used the same subterfuge to involve the Obama administration in a nuclear showdown with Iran—a crisis the Israeli prime minister created.

In 2012, Netanyahu’s threats to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities pushed President Barack Obama—fearful of being dragged into another catastrophic regional war—to impose draconian economic sanctions on Iran. Netanyahu had counted on the confrontation between Washington and Tehran. His threats backfired, resulting instead in US -Iran cooperation and the signing of a multilateral, comprehensive nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Abrogating the JCPOA then became a major priority for Netanyahu. The pro-Israel, anti-Iran Trump administration was eager to help, announcing US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement on May 8, 2018.

Arab leaders who once sought political unity under the banner of Pan-Arabism, or Arab nationalism, are united today by their hostility toward Iran. The Abraham Accords are essentially a military alliance between the Gulf’s Sunni monarchs and Israel against the Islamic Republic of Iran—a central foreign policy goal of the Trump administration and its Evangelical base.

The Palestine-Israel conflict has been transformed into an Iran-Arab conflict. The signatories to the accords are engaged in diplomatic terrorism against Tehran and Palestine. For 40 years Israel has used Iran as a foil to distract attention away from its ongoing annexation policies in the occupied territories.

Countries that refuse to bow to US-Israeli pressure and aggression pay dearly. Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen continue to face devastating military and economic assaults from the United States and Israel.  

 Fearing internal opposition and pressure from Washington, other Arab monarchs will fall in line like the UAE and Bahrain. Although they profess commitment, most Arab leaders have never really supported the Palestinian cause.

Before the signing ceremonies, President Trump presented Netanyahu with what he described as a ceremonial golden key to the White House and to the country. Interestingly, no such gesture was made toward the Emirati or Bahraini representatives, nor were the American people consulted as to whether they wanted Netanyahu to receive a key to their White House or country.

Presenting Israel’s leader with, in Trump’s words, a “key to our country” was symbolic. It revealed how the two governments have become indistinguishable in their symmetrical pursuit of hegemonic control over the “old Middle East,” which they have worked tirelessly to create in their image.

The Abraham Accords and similar agreements that fail to address and correct the terrible wrongs that have been done to the Palestinians will not win the hearts of the Arab people or quell their anger. US-Israeli policies of coercion and bribery will only bring more instability and tragedy to the region. And engineering bargains with Persian Gulf despots will not make the Palestine-Israel catastrophe disappear or bring Israel regional acceptance, normalcy or peace.

– Dr. M. Reza Behnam is a political scientist whose specialties include American foreign policy and the history, politics and governments of the Middle East.

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