What happened?

ON August 13, the United States brokered a peace deal which saw the United Arab Emirates become the first Arab country in nearly 30 years to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.

What is the deal about?

Under the deal, Israel has agreed to suspend its plan to annex the occupied West Bank in return for receiving full diplomatic and economic relations with the wealthy Gulf state.

Both countries are expected to exchange embassies and begin formal cooperation across various sectors, including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security. They also signed an agreement to cooperate on research and development related to COVID-19.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is preparing for direct flights to the United Arab Emirates (over Saudi Arabia) as part of the deal.

How did it happen?

Over the years, UAE-Israel relationship improved mainly due to their opposition towards Iran’s nuclear programme and influence in the region.

The deal, according to the White House, has been a product of lengthy discussions between three countries but was accelerated, likely prompted by Netanyahu’s promise to annex the West Bank by 1st July.

On July 14th, President Donald Trump announced the deal - also known as the Abraham Accord - that will fully normalise diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The deal is timely for Donald Trump who claimed a major foreign policy achievement ahead of November's presidential election.

U.S. President Donald Trump receives applause after announcing that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have reached a peace deal that will lead to the full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that Trump helped broker, at White House in Washington, U.S., August 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Why the deal matters?

• The UAE is the third country, after Egypt and Jordan, to normalise relations with Israel, raising possibilities that other Gulf states might follow suit.

• While the deal carries historic significance, questions remain if it represents a meaningful change in bilateral relationship as both countries have a pre-existing informal economic relationship and share a mutual security concern - Iran. The deal is seen as a move by Trump to increase pressure on Tehran.

• Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership has rejected and denounced the deal, calling it a ‘stab in the back’. It also warned other Arab countries against bowing to US pressures and following UAE footsteps.

Palestinians burn cutouts depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalise relations, in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 14, 2020. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

Palestinians take part in a protest against the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalise relations, in Gaza City August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

• Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the same sentiment calling the deal as a "huge mistake" a "betrayal of the Palestinian cause".

• Israel, being the only Jewish state in the Middle East, wants normalisation with the Arab world. Warmer ties with Arab states would take away one key incentive for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories Israel conquered in the 1967 war.

• Also, Israel’s move to suspend annexation of the West Bank is a delay; Netanyahu was reported as saying that the plan remains "on the table"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a peace agreement to establish diplomatic ties, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, during a news conference at the prime minster office in Jerusalem, August 13, 2020. Abir Sultan /Pool via REUTERS

What does it mean to Malaysia?

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia’s position on the issue of Palestine has always been consistent.

It holds no diplomatic relations with Israel and has always rejected the illegal plan for annexation, reiterating its long-held position for an independent Palestine through the two-state solution.