United Arab Emirates (UAE) requires strong international relations that will enhance its performance and the target audience is MESA policymakers.
UAE and Israel have been conflicted for decades since the UAE got its independence in 1971. The countries have been nominal enemies, making them not engage in any business activities. UAE never allowed any communication between its citizens and Israel. Although the two countries have been enemies for a long time, in August 2020, they put aside their differences and decided to have a peace agreement that would benefit both sides (Chapman, 2020). However, the deal is not enough for UAE as some of the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) members are not aligned with Israel, making it challenging for UAE to have good relations with other Middle East countries.
The research question is whether the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) with a strategic partnership with Israel, could be beneficial for UAE foreign policy. Understanding the partnership’s impact on UAE is best explained by the relationship between UAE and Israel in the current period. Since the set-up of Israel in 1948, Arab countries have been boycotting products from Israel and those from countries that support them (Weiss, 2017). Over the years, this issue has affected peacebuilding, traveling, and trade within the region. There were many challenges during the boycotting period at local and international levels. Business transactions were enabled through third parties, making it difficult for the high-risk business to nourish as investors were only willing to take manageable risks. The signing of the peace treaty has resulted in mutual trade between the two countries, the development of embassies and the opening of air space as flights from Israel now access the UAE air space.
Currently, the development level of UAE and Israel is almost the same as the two countries have a GDP of approximately 400 billion U.S. dollars with a small population that has high living standards. Additionally, UAE is an open economy, and the agreement has significantly boosted international relations (Egel et al., 2021). Israel’s export and import ratio constitutes about 30% of its GDP, a significant proportion for business. The UAE is a hub for the re-export of various goods, accounting for approximately 50% of the total export (Atradius Economic Research, 2021). The economy of the UAE is diversified, implying that the country can trade with multiple regions, including Israel, as they do not rely on a single item for trade. Despite the country being a large producer of hydrocarbons, more than 70% of its GDP comes from other non-oil sectors (Atradius Economic Research, 2021). This promotes mutual benefit with other trading countries, and expanding the network through MESA will enhance their economy positively.
The current position of the UAE in the development of intimate trade relations is 16th, while that of Israel is 20th. The improvement in the rating is aligned with the peace treaty that the country made with Israel. For UAE to improve on this, it requires support from multinational corporations, which will enjoy a good business environment when there is unity among MESA members and Israel. The lifting of the boycotting policy is essential as all the impediments that prevent bilateral trade have been removed. Furthermore, the agreement focused on lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers, promoting free trade agreements. Joining hands has provided both the UAE and Israel with mutual trade opportunities (Egel et al., 2021). Through foreign policy, UAE is able to expand its exports and imports since it is a major importer of controlling apparatus, medicaments, fruits and nuts, apparatus, and electrical machinery. The items that UAE exports are among the top exports of Israel, enabling the two countries to have mutual opportunities. On the other hand, Israel imports vehicles and ships, and these products are on the list of UAE re-export.
Additionally, security has been a significant problem in the UAE. This also makes it a critical problem in the country, hence the need for allies that will help UAE defend itself from both internal and external threats. The external threat is a significant issue considering that countries like Iran and its allies such as Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, Saudi pose a significant threat to UAE (Egel et al., 2021). Terrorism is an excellent threat to peacebuilding, and Middle East countries have had a problem with the uprising of various terrorist groups. However, MESA must include Israel to strengthen the current bond that the UAE has created. The relationship is vulnerable because of the changing geopolitical environment in the Middle East. This implies that the benefit can only be made sustainable if the MESA agrees to partner with Israel.
Obtaining an answer to the research is critical in identifying the importance of MESA partnering with Israel. The current approach utilized by the researcher is investigating the effect MESA has brought to the Middle East since its development to signify the possible outcome that can be generated by MESA countries joining hands with their common rival. Understanding the impact of MESA provides a reasoning ground for the effect that UAE will have when it has support from MESA.
In May 2017, MESA was set up by President Donald Trump to aid the development of peace and security in the region and the world at large. The program was labeled “Arab NATO” as it involves the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) member states, including UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait. The program involves other non-member states such as the United States of America, Jordan, and Egypt (Farouk, 2019). Previously, creating MESA was mainly on peace and security, but after some time, it has involved the development of political and economic sectors among the member states. Additionally, the program focuses on managing the conflict in the Middle East, which involves Syria and Yemen. The program also considers preventing infrastructural attacks, countering terrorism, and counterproliferation. In other words, the program’s target is the security, political, economic, and energy pillars.
MESA focuses on promoting interoperability among the members by linking their regional capabilities, including the defense system such as command and control, border security, missile domains, asymmetric warfare, cyber-attacks, and maritime and air threats. The interoperability in the defense strategy includes integration with U.S forces, sharing of information, modular force elements, equipment developments and sharing, and operational concepts. Through this strategy, MESA members would interact to promote security and fill defense gaps in the region (Farouk, 2019). The interoperability will promote the limitation of increased purchase of arms from countries such as China and Russia, which have been used to harm civilians by terrorist groups. Previously, most MESA members have been purchasing arms such as Russia’s S-400 defense systems, whose usage has been beyond Syria. It is imperative that the U.S control the use and violations of their arms to promote peacebuilding, as most Middle East countries consider the U.S a significant threat.
The Political Pillar
The target of MESA in the political pillar is to promote and enhance the commitments among political organizations in the region, as political ideologies have been a critical factor in the Middle East. The program will provide the member states with an effective method of resolving disputes plus coordination during times of crisis. Furthermore, MESA focuses on handling long-term conflicts such as that between Israel and Palestine (Farouk, 2019). Additionally, it will help promote the identification of political allies rather than based on speculation that often results in unresolved conflicts.
Economic and Energy Pillars
MESA focuses on enhancing the trade relations among its member states. This includes promoting trade and increased foreign direct investments, as most investors fear investing in the region because of the unconducive business environment. The program will enable the member states to have access to international private investment industries as well as the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID). Additionally, the member states will be able to replace the financial contributions from the U.S with regional programs (Farouk, 2019). This approach has portrayed the significance of the MESA program in developing its member states in terms of political benefits, security and economic and energy. MESA outcomes are significant despite the program not including Israel. This shows that ending the conflict between Israel and MESA will significantly impact the performance of the Middle East countries, specifically the UAE, which has already agreed to work hand in hand with her long-term rival.
UAE has maintained many foreign representations within and outside the country. Currently, UAE has 100 embassies and 21 consulates outside the country. Furthermore, it hosts 121 foreign embassies and 74 consulates. The number of representatives exceeds most of the Middle East countries and other countries with approximately the same population size, such as Azerbaijan and Hungary. Despite the country governing elite meetings, multiple ministers and presidents of foreign affairs are working actively to enhance the country’s performance (Ketbi, 2020). This is portrayed by the visitation of the National Security Advisor of UAE Sheikh Tafnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Iran. The visit between the two countries provides a significant U-turn in the relationship between the two countries.
UAE capital city Abu Dhabi has undertaken measures to utilize soft power. This council was created in 2017 to progress UAE’s reputation. The role of the soft power council includes sponsorship in various areas such as sports, where the Emirates logo is across multiple football clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester City, and Paris Saint-German (Krzymowski, 2020). UAE has also inaugurated public and cultural diplomacy in the Ministry of foreign affairs. There are renowned educational institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Sorbonne. Furthermore, despite the country having a high population of Muslims, it is religious tolerance, and since 2019, various temples and churches have been constructed.
The advantages of diplomatic instruments are portrayed by the UAE’s ranking in the global peace index. The country is ranked position 41, which is significant compared to other Middle East countries. This changes the perception of the country hence attracting investors to the country (Krzymowski, 2022). Additionally, diplomatic relation has enabled the country to end long-term enmity with Israel, thus increasing the interaction in both security and economic development. The disadvantage of the diplomatic instrument is that the country has created significant attention from their neighbors, such as Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, for joining with Israel. This has made the above countries perceive UAE as a supporter of injustices.
The country has used its naval and airbase to help countries such as Yemen. The country has made an effort to build airbases in areas such as Somalia, which has had a significant problem with political stability. Other UAE projects include Perim Island Airbase and afield in Libya. Furthermore, the UAE forces use the advantage of good relations with NATO to carry out military operations (“Foreign Policy,” 2022). Through this effect, the UAE is able to prepare itself in case of emergencies. The country has had a significant relationship with the U.S, which has conducted various operations in the region. Some of the UAE airbase pilots have been trained by the U.S, implying good relations. It has also taken risks in the training of the Armed Forces in areas such as the Somali army and the Horn of Africa. In Yemen, it has equipped the Hadrami forces through the program. Additionally, the city of Abu Dhabi has played a significant role in hosting various military companies such as Knowledge International and Reflex responses. The multi-million investment in arms enables native defense companies to enhance their efficiency in developing security and defense systems such as drones.
Despite the project being in its infancy, the outcomes are satisfactory as other countries use the products to strengthen their defense sector. UAE also include compulsory joining of males into the military service depending on their level of education. This program promotes a healthy lifestyle, reduces the crime rate, and increases potential soldiers when the need arises (“Foreign Policy,” 2022). Furthermore, military officers have been sent to countries such as U.S and United Kingdom to get conversant with the western culture. This promotes their integration with other military organizations. The advantage of this method is that UAE is able to create good relations with vulnerable countries such as Somalia and Libya, as they have proven to be effective in promoting political stability. It also promotes its citizens’ well-being through good health and security assurance. The disadvantage of this method is that the budget of the UAE increases significantly because of managing various security and defense forces in countries such as Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
UAE uses its economic capability to promote humanitarian aid in multiple countries such as Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, and Jordan. The summits held in UAE provide the country with the final decision on where to send the aid and investments as it has become the intermediary in those transactions. The county also provides loans to various governments, making them become partners (“Foreign Policy,” 2022). A notable example is after the fall of the reign of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. The Emirati companies have promoted the foreign policy of the UAE through various activities. For example, the airline company contributes to the country’s positive image by sponsoring multiple football clubs such as Arsenal and Real Madrid.
The Dubai ports world has been making strategic choices by acquiring ports that promote its position on major sea routes. The facilities are multipurpose as they can be used for both commercial and naval. The company also helps curb piracy along the Gulf of Aden through collaboration with anti-terrorism groups such as the U.S. In the communication industry, the Etisalat network is among the most extensive network service providers that operate in 16 countries with more than 146 million users. It operates in Mauritania, Morocco, and other West African countries (“Foreign Policy,” 2022). The advantage of the Economic method is that it has enabled the country to gain local allies and international legitimacy. Additionally, the sponsoring program has enabled the UAE to become a transport hub for Asia, Africa, and Europe. Its disadvantage is that it requires constant monitoring of the projects and is prone to international economic problems.
The First potential course of action is to extend the Zero problem policy to members of MESA. This will enable MESA member states to rethink their position and the benefits they will get by partnering with Israel. Most of the member states have problems with security, and including Israel in the program will enable them to benefit from the security and defense system that it develops. The second option is to become a mediator between Israel and rival Arab countries. This will enhance UAE foreign policy as well increasing the chances of MESA partnering with Israel. The mediation should involve solving long-term conflicts, such as the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This will also promote the relationship between UAE and Iran since partnering with Israel has made some of the Middle East countries perceive the relations as hostile.
UAE’s partnering with Israel significantly enhances its foreign policy. This is because the country has extended its operations in various sectors, and the most notable area is the development of the UAE economy. However, for UAE to have sustainable benefits from the relationship, it is vital for MESA to partner with Israel. This is portrayed by the impact of the formation of MESA in the Middle East, specifically the UAE. The foundation of this program is based on the security, political, economic and energy pillars. These pillars are vital for the UAE’s performance in the region, considering that they have strong neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Currently, UAE utilizes diplomatic, military, and economic policies to promote its foreign policy. The methods have proven to be effective with various disadvantages. However, drawbacks can be reduced by MESA involving Israel in the program. The above finding is significant as it enables MESA members to perceive the importance of using diplomacy in tackling issues and the need to unite with Israel to benefit Middle East countries. The limitation of this research findings is based on the availability and nature of resources available. This can be mitigated by increasing the number of studies on foreign policy in the Middle East.
The current foreign policy strategies need to be modified to be beneficial for UAE foreign policy. The diplomatic instrument utilized by UAE should put the relationship between Israel and Palestine a top priority, as most of the MESA members do not align with Israel because of the war between the two countries. The diplomatic policy will enable MESA members to change their perception regarding Israel, and in the process, the member states may end up partnering with Israel. The military instruments should include MESA members since most states have security challenges. Since the UAE has partnered with Israel, it can use its technological exports to enhance the defense system of the member state. This strategy will enhance security as well as change the perception of Israel not being a threat.
Atradius Economic Research. (2021) (pp. 1-6). Web.
Chapman, C. (2020). Israel and the United Arab Emirates strike an historic peace agreement. Web.
Egel, D., Efron, S., & Robinson, L. (2021). Peace Dividend: Widening the economic growth and development benefits of the Abraham Accord. Web.
Farouk, Y. (2019). The Middle East strategic alliance has a long way to go. Web.
Foreign Policy. (2022). Web.
Ketbi, E. (2020). Contemporary Shifts in UAE Foreign Policy: From the Liberation of Kuwait to the Abraham Accords. Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, 14(3), 391-398.
Krzymowski, A. (2020). The European Union and the United Arab Emirates as civilian and soft powers engaged in Sustainable Development Goals. Journal of International Studies, 13(3), 41-58.
Krzymowski, A. (2022). Role and significance of the United Arab Emirates foreign aid for its soft power strategy and sustainable development goals. Social Sciences, 11(2), 48.
Weiss, M. (2017). Arab league boycott of Israel (pp. 1-11). Web.