The normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and some of the United States’ Arab allies is the news of the week. For Washington, the need to simplify the regional position of its strategic twin in the Holy Land is a goal that dates back to the dawn of Trump’s presidential term, who already in 2017 unsuccessfully tried to link the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to the proposed agreement to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (so-called Deal of the century).
Since then the White House has changed approach, urging its local allies to reach a bilateral normalization which was then formalized three days ago under the framework of the “Abraham Accords”. The pact is a full, undeniable and personal success of President Donald Trump, which was fostered by the intertwining of informal (if not occult) relations that have been going on for some years between Jerusalem and some Arab countries of the Gulf in economic-financial, intelligence and security fields. If normalization with the UAE was all in all easy – after all, the “little Sparta” lacks the cumbersome pan-Arab narrative that characterizes its neighbors, the opening by Manama is the signal that normalization between the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia is in perspective an achievable goal.
Little Bahrain is in fact closely entwined to Riyadh and is likely to become a neutral platform for unofficial meetings between Saudis and Israelis. In the short term, however, full reconciliation with Israel is still too complicated for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, given the Saudi aspirations for regional leadership, its delicate leading role in the Muslim world and the hostility of the reigning monarch.
The fact that the Israel-UAE-Bahrain agreements were signed on the anniversary of the attack on the Aramco oil facilities (14 September 2019), attributed to Iran but claimed by the Yemeni Houthi insurgents, is however an important detail that should not be underestimated. The anti-Persian and anti-Turkish nature of the diplomatic maneuver is so evident that neither Qatar, an iron ally and financier of the most relevant Turkish geopolitical initiatives in the Mediterranean, Libya and the Horn of Africa, nor Oman, the historic mediator of the Gulf between Iranians and their enemies, are part of it.
On a structural level, therefore, the remarkable activism exhibited over the past few years by the heirs of the greatest Middle Eastern empires in history (Tehran and Ankara) was the driving force behind the gathering of Arabs alongside Jews against non-Arabs. An operation urgent enough to convince the Israeli government to give up for the moment the proposed annexation of the West Bank, infuriating the most radical components of its population: in order to survive in a region that is still largely hostile to her, Israel needs to compensate for its territorial scarcity with a traditionally aggressive foreign policy strategy and the continuous search for new allies.
Meanwhile, the United States will be able to continue setting up its anti-Iranian coalition in the Middle East and curbing Turkish ambitions, keeping the successors of the Ottoman Empire in constant quarrel to avoid a concentration of power that complicates the calculations of the superpower in the Middle East, namely the unavoidable connector between Europe and the Indo-Pacific.