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The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has brought to the forefront the single biggest challenge that the regional normalisation process was expected to face at some point, that of the issue of Palestine. From
However, the recent emergency session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) along with the Arab League held in Riyadh to discuss Gaza showcased the lack of an Arab consensus beyond condemnation and the divergent long-term interests of participating states. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi also
But for the likes of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and others, strategic interests at play are long-term and the current inflection point poses a challenge to their vision. Over the past few years, diplomatic and strategic reorientation within the region highlighted rapidly shifting interests, moving from a history of conflict to a future where functional stability is seen of essence. The
A Saudi normalisation with Israel, the former being home to the Two Holy Mosques, would be a tectonic event. It would also re-draw the lines in the sand geostrategically, with an Arab-Israeli block with American backing standing in unity against Iran, an unpalatable prospect for the Shia state.
In this respect, the UAE’s response to both Hamas’s terror attack against Israel and the latter’s subsequent military operations in Gaza has been both tempered and for many, unexpected. Abu Dhabi’s initial response was to condemn Hamas’s actions against Israel, calling it a “
However, despite the ongoing scramble to find a political and diplomatic sweet spot, it is unlikely that these new Arab-Israel mechanisms will collapse given the Gazan conflict or due to a more confrontational posture between Arab states and Iran. “The (Abraham) Accords are our future,”
And much like the UAE, the Saudis were also moving towards a normalisation process with Israel. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), only days before the Hamas attack, had said in an
For the likes of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and others, strategic interests at play are long-term and the current inflection point poses a challenge to their vision.
Even if Hamas’s actions were not primarily intended to disrupt the above narratives, doing so would be a big boon. A Saudi normalisation with Israel, the former being home to the Two Holy Mosques, would be a tectonic event. It would also re-draw the lines in the sand geostrategically, with an Arab-Israeli block with American backing standing in unity against Iran, an unpalatable prospect for the Shia state. In response, Iran, over the years, has perhaps mobilised the most utilitarian version of a strategy once envisioned by Pakistan’s erstwhile military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, that of targeting an adversary through a “
For the I2U2, the ongoing crisis is a setback, but not an existential one. The minilateral format may lose some steam in the coming months but remains important as an institution. However, the ideation of it as a nimbler diplomacy design with successful delivery mechanisms, a potential alternative to post-WWII international frameworks, is yet to be proven. Perhaps this crisis is an opportune time for such minilaterals to work with pre-existing regional forums to show their worthiness. The US–Israel block within the I2U2 is operating more on a bilateral level with the UAE maintaining both distance and balance. India is also walking a tightrope in the crisis when it comes to balancing its own foreign policy and domestic political compulsions. While New Delhi
Mechanisms such as the I2U2, and even the
Kabir Taneja is a Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme at the Observer Research Foundation
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Kabir Taneja is a Fellow with Strategic Studies programme. His research focuses on Indias relations with West Asia specifically looking at the domestic political dynamics ...Read More +