Al-Aqsa Storm: A Counter Strike to Arab- Zionist Normalisation
In the tumultuous landscape of West Asia-North Africa (WANA) region’s current geopolitical theatre, normalisation with the Zionist entity is being promoted as a new normal. Marked by a complex interplay of economic interests, strategic alliances, accusations of betrayal, and backstabbing, this subject has been deeply divisive among Arab states. Official stance of those countries happen to be contrary to the feelings of their common citizens and residents, who ferociously support Palestine liberation and show impeccable solidarity to the Palestine cause. Being a brainchild of the United States, this normalisation policy is regarded as a way to cement American influence in the region through its Zionist proxy. Although this normalisation is gaining currency across WANA region, the ongoing “Al Aqsa storm” operation of Palestinian liberation movements and subsequent escalations of conflict have become capable of decelerating this process. Heroic resistance and substantial offensive by Palestine is a well-shown reminder to pro-Zionist stance of Arab regimes and their zeal for normalisation.
Flawed normalisation experiments
Normalisation and negotiations with Zionists are not a new phenomenon in the Zionist–Arab regime relations. Since 1967, various peace talks and normalisation deals were staged with much fervour and zero result.
Trend of the current normalisation drive could be traced to “Abraham Accords”. Those accords were initially mediated by former US President Donald Trump. It enticed several Muslim-majority states, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan, and Bahrain, into this new era of relations. Now, Saudi Arabia teeters on the edge of joining this infamous and deeply divisive deal, a move that is expected to have far-reaching implications for the Palestinian cause and liberation struggle.
A brief retrospective at the history of Arab regimes’ relations with the Zionist entity will reveal a series of ventures and deals in pursuit of so-called normalisation or peace – many of which are blatantly violated by Zionist side, sparking renewed tensions. Instead of adhering to terms of agreements they make, Zionist regime escalates attacks on Palestinians with time and embarks on extensive settlement programmes in occupied territories. Prominent examples of such agreements include Camp David agreements of 1979, Wadi Arabah deal of 1994. Both of those demonstrated challenges of engaging with Zionists in pursuit of lasting peace.
Oslo Accords, celebrated by many as a significant breakthrough in that regard, fell far short of expectations. Signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat under American mediation, Oslo Accords stated about a two-state solution. However, Zionist reluctance to withdraw and its ongoing settler colonialism initiatives have rendered this basic point seemingly impractical. Relentless expansion of settlements has eroded the declared positions in this regard and pushed notion of a two-state solution further out of reach. The so-called Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 was another instance, which was unilaterally declared by Saudi Arabia, promised that Arab regimes would normalise relations with the Zionist entity if it were to withdraw to its UN recognised borders. The current normalisation deals directly contravene the baseline spelled out in the “Arab Peace Initiative”, that no normalisation should occur without realisation of a two-nation solution.
Saudi Arabia is poised to be the latest one to join the list of regimes “normalising” with the Zionist entity. The impending normalisation deal between Saudi Arabian regime and Zionist entity is expected to set in motion a complex web of interests, ambitions, and calculations among major global players. As the deal unfolds, each participant has distinct motives driving their involvement, with the United States at the centre of this geopolitical chessboard.
For the United States, normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Zionist regime represents a pivotal opportunity to assert a greater commanding role in the WANA region. With its eyes set on a grander scheme, the United States aims to strengthen its grip on the economic and geopolitical dynamics of the region. China’s foray into WANA affairs, particularly its role in mediating the recent Saudi Arabia – Iran deal, has been trumpeted as a challenge to American hegemony and a gradual erosion of American influence. In this context, the U.S. portrays the Saudi-Zionist normalisation as an area through which it could assert its presence and dominance. The adage that “who controls West Asia, controls the world” is perhaps more emphasised than ever by America.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, it has some major calculations through this deal, going by the Western media coverage of the same. Foremost of this is Saudi Arabia’s supposed quest for a civilian nuclear programme. Wedged between the nuclear-armed Iran and Zionist entity, realising this ambition is contingent upon American support, which is at the cost of normalisation of relations with Zionists. Another facet of Saudi Arabia’s calculus in this process is the regime’s Vision 2030 plan, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This declaration seeks transformation of Saudi Arabian culture and economy. In this endeavour, embracing Zionists is touted as a valuable asset. In lines with the UN Sustainability declarations, Saudi Arabian regime has declared a gradual departure from reliance on oil.
On the other hand, the pursuit of formal normalisation with Arab regimes has long been a tactical cornerstone of Zionist strategy.
Hypocrisy of Arab regimes
One of the primary motives behind Zionist’s drive for normalisation is its understanding of the shifting dynamics within Arab states and urge to expand its clout. While these regimes may publicly advocate for the cessation of Zionist settlements and condemn human rights abuses, the reality is far different. Zionists are aware that many Arab rulers harbour any spirit to support the Palestinian cause. Pragmatism and self-interest often take precedence over justice and solidarity in the approach of Arab regimes to Palestine cause. This disconnect between the views of the ruling elites and popular sentiments is striking. While the political leadership may pursue normalisation with Zionists, for ordinary Muslims and Arabs, Palestine remains an emotionally charged issue. The historical, religious and cultural bonds to the Palestinian cause run deep among the common populace.
In almost all Arab states, dissent and opposition are often met with severe repercussions. These regimes prioritise their own interests and stability above concerns and sentiments of their citizens. As a result, any opposition to policies related to Zionists may face significant challenges and suppression.
Apart from this shifting dynamics of Arab regimes, in an effort to counter its declared archrival Iran, Zionist regime claims to be keen on intertwining with Saudi Arabia. This tactical move is touted as providing Zionists with certain security edge over Iran. By establishing formal diplomatic relations with Arab regimes, Zionists seeks to sidestep the diplomatic pressure and condemnation it faces on the Palestinian issue and international support of Palestinian rights. In every possible way it is a win-win situation for the Israel and the Arab regimes, which are trying to normalise, while the loser would be the Ummah and the Palestinian cause.
Message of Al-Aqsa storm
The surprising and unprecedented retaliatory Al-Aqsa storm operation has taken the liberation struggle to a different level. This dramatic yet much anticipated development is believed to halt the rapid pace at which the normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia and Zionist regime was progressing. The current escalation of tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has thrown a wrench into the works, posing significant challenges to the future of normalisation agreements with Zionists.
Arab regimes now find themselves compelled to reassess their positions and allegiances in light of the operation Al-Aqsa storm. Solidarity and resonance with the Palestinian cause has the potential to challenge any kind of friendship with the Zionists. This escalation is likely to compel Arab regimes to take sides, and with sentiments in the region leaning strongly in favour of Palestine. Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have endorsed Palestinian rights in their latest statements. Only the blatantly pro-Zionist UAE regime has condemned Hamas directly.
It is conceivable that in planning the Al-Aqsa storm, Palestinian groups may have calculated the potential impact on the looming Saudi-Zionist normalisation deals and normalisation trend in WANA. It appears like Saudi Arabia and other Arab regimes will need to reconsider their positions and priorities when it comes to forging ties with Zionist entity, given the current volatile situation. Timing of this operation is well in tune with the erosion of global support for Palestine cause. Palestinian liberation groups senses that if resistance is delayed, Palestine might be unable to gain support in the future.
Writes weekly column on middle eastern politics for islamonweb.com. Currently Pursuing post graduation in islamic studies at Darul Huda Islamic University.