A UAE-Israeli normalisation agreement signed last week places Israel closer to many of the Middle East’s conflicts and diplomatic rows, regional affairs expert Zvi Bar’el wrote in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Monday.
“It brings Israel into an axis of countries that are involved militarily and diplomatically in wars and moves in the Middle East, and as such it also makes Israel a target,” said Bar’el. Diplomatic accords were now also possible with other Gulf Arab countries such as Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia, he said.
The United Arab Emirates has planned an offshore gas pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to Italy with Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.
The project “is intended to compete with and even hurt the Turkish project to pipe oil and gas from Libya to Europe after the signing of a strategic alliance between Turkey and Libya,” Bar’el said.
Ankara and Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) signed a maritime agreement in November to establish an exclusive economic zone to legitimise Turkey’s resource claims in the eastern Mediterranean, much to the ire of a conglomerate of nations planning pipelines in the area.
Simmering tensions between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are “not new”, Bar’el said.
In 2017, Turkey assisted Qatar when the small Gulf country faced an economic embargo imposed by other Arab countries in the region, including the UAE. The Arab coalition cited Doha’s alleged support of terrorist groups, including the political pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, as the main reason for the diplomatic crisis.
Arab Gulf countries and Egypt view the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan backs and has harboured in Turkey. Ankara also competes with the UAE and other regional powers for political and military control in Libya.
Turkey is now trying to involve itself in the rehabilitation of Lebanon, Bar’el said. Lebanon is recovering from a massive blast this month at the Beirut port that killed at least 180 people and injured over 6,000.
“It has raised suspicions in the UAE that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to pull the rug out from under Saudi Arabia, which so far has been the patron of the Sunnis in Lebanon,” he said.
On Friday, the Turkish president said he was considering cutting diplomatic ties with the UAE over the deal with Israel.
“Interestingly, Erdogan wants to punish the UAE, when Turkey itself has a diplomatic mission in Israel,” Bar’el said.
The Middle East expert said Erdoğan’s response to the Israel-UAE agreement was harsher than that of Iran, which should “come as no surprise” since Iran relies economically on the Gulf country.