Israel is giving an up-close glimpse of some of the most painful facets of placing political power in the hands of the people, after four almost consecutive elections which attempted to break two years of Knesset gridlock.
It may have been overlooked before, but less than a year after an unexpected diplomatic transition that saw Israel step toward normalization with four Arab states, the ongoing parade of elections and the chaos that comes with them may put more pressure on the negotiations that are still somehow new.
Besides using the Arab states as a platform for political point-scoring by Israeli leaders, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they have been putting in a wait-and-see situation to see when Jerusalem will figures itself out.
Efraim Inbar, the president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies said “In general, this doesn’t look good beyond our borders for the same reason it doesn’t look good here. There is no stability, and the folks over the border don’t always understand our system… They don’t like instability.”
Actually the absence of democratic stability has placed Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates (the so called Abraham Accords) “on hold”, according to Oded Eran, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.
He believes that they aren’t canceling the deal, but they don’t want any more. They ought to see what the new government’s policy will be. The Abraham Accords were signed when Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump were still in office. Now Trump has left office, and Netanyahu’s political stance is unclear.
However, it’s true that the vast majority of the negotiations that led to deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan took place during the December 2018 election cycle. When Israel’s new allies committed to ties, they were all well aware that Israel was going through a difficult political time.
“They’ve been living with this level of uncertainty regarding where Israel is going to end up since fairly early in the process,” said Joshua Krasna, Middle East expert at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.
Netanyahu has a long tradition of trying to turn his social reputation into political points, highlighting his diplomatic skills by arranging high-level meetings or attention-getting journeys.
Netanyahu personally attempted to schedule trips to Morocco on two different occasions in 2019, in what was generally seen as diplomatic maneuvering. According to news from February 2019, Netanyahu was attempting to schedule a state visit to Morocco only before Israel’s April 9 votes.
Netanyahu also attempted to accompany US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a mission to Morocco in December of that year, but Morocco’s King Mohammed VI rejected the proposal. He was looking for a true diplomatic victory to boost his political prospects before the Knesset’s December 11 deadline to name a lawmaker to lead a cabinet.
King Abdullah of Jordan is said to have declined Netanyahu’s repeated calls for a meeting, but it is said that he met Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently. The Jordanians are well aware that any meeting with Netanyahu in the last two years will be used for election purposes right away.
The UAE has also tried to stop Netanyahu to use them as a domestic political puppets. Several preparations for Netanyahu to visit the UAE in recent months have been canceled for a variety of reasons. According to sources, the UAE was hesitant to host him because they were concerned that it would be seen as election meddling.
The UAE has also recently canceled arrangements to host Netanyahu, top US leaders, and heads of Arab states that have normalized ties with Israel at a summit. The summit was supposed to take place in Abu Dhabi in April but was postponed after Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed became enraged by Netanyahu’s alleged attempt to use the Gulf nation for election campaigns.
According to experts, the UAE’s actions were intended to give a warning not only to Netanyahu, but to all other Israeli leaders who may have similar plans.
Netanyahu has been criticized repeatedly by Arab countries leaders, because of his personal intentions interfered in the deal. This may have irreparable consequences for Israel and it made the experts worried. The deal has been signed for the hope and opportunities that it would provide for people, not individual leaders.