The Arab League rejection of Donald Trump’s peace plan confirmed Israel’s role as the diplomatic mistress of Persian Gulf monarchs. Arab states are happy to flirt privately with Israeli intelligence-sharing, defense cooperation and hi-tech capabilities, but hesitate to bring this budding relationship into the daylight. The Palestinians cannot prevent these liaisons but can still employ sufficient guilt to prevent the Gulf Arab leaders from publicly admitting to their dalliance with Israel.
Many Arab countries initially welcomed the Trump administration’s release of its long-awaited plan in late January. Ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates were present at the launch event. Those that weren’t — including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco — nevertheless expressed support for the administration’s efforts and praised some of the plan’s positive elements. It appeared that Israel and the Arab states were ready to move from discreet affairs to international affairs.
However, any hope of a full-fledged embrace of the plan by Gulf leaders was dashed when, just days later, the Arab League issued a sound and unanimous rejection of the entire plan, underscoring how Israeli ties to the Persian Gulf continue their delicate dance of two steps forward, one step back. Denouncing the plan as a “so-called ‘deal,’” the Arab League dubbed it a “setback” to the peace efforts undertaken in the past 30 years. The Palestinians initiated this public meeting of the Arab League, knowing they could shame the Arab states into denying their intrigue with Israel.
Varsha Koduvayur is a senior research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where David May is a research analyst. FDD is a Washington-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow them on Twitter at @varshakoduvayur and @DavidSamuelMay. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD.