“The longer a blind man lives, the more he sees,” said Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem. Grandiose plans can lead to folly, and the blindness of politicians and kings may lead to disaster.
The recent peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) surprised the world’s media. Only the third country to enter into a political pact with the Jewish state, UAE is the first which has no contiguous borders with Israel. Two other countries – Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) – have U.S.-brokered peace deals with Israel, but those treaties are tenuous, dependent on the political and social stability of both Islamic countries. Egypt’s Camp David accords and Jordan’s Wadi Araba Treaty are labeled by political scientists as classic examples of what is ‘cold peace.’
Here is a pertinent example of this ‘tenuous cold peace’: When Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi came to power in 2012, Israel rapidly discovered that its ally was transforming into a jihadi Frankenstein’s monster. The same movement that birthed 9/11 and Osama bin Laden was now in charge next door. So peace treaties in the Middle East between Israel and her enemies are in the end only documents written on paper. Their staying power hangs on a very fragile balance of factors. What are the factors involved in this latest peace agreement?
“Britannia rules the waves” – words from the British Navy’s famous patriotic song reflect her imperialist strategies in the 1700’s, when it set its lion’s paw on a handful of small sheikdoms in Northern Arabia bordering the Arabian Gulf. England’s ‘Divide and Rule’ policy homed in on the smallest possible political entities on the Gulf Coast and made a truce with each one in 1820. The original name for the British Protectorate established in that strip of Gulf territory (which included present-day Oman as well) was ‘Trucial Oman’ (Rosemarie Said Zahlan, The Origin of the United Arab Emirates, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978). Rulers were set on thrones in each emirate: from the Bani Yas tribe – the Nahyan family in Abu Dhabi, and the Maktoum family in Dubai; and from the Qawasim tribe, the rulers of Sharjah and Ra’as al-Khaimah (Ono Motohiro, Reconsideration of the Meanings of the Tribal Ties in the United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi Emirate in Early ʼ90s; Kyoto Bulletin of Islamic Area Studies, 4-1&2; March 2011). The goal was to establish British centers of influence and control in an impoverished region whose main exports up to that time were pearling, fishing and date farming. The discovery of petroleum in Bahrain (1932) led to exporting abilities in Qatar (1949), Kuwait (1953) and Abu Dhabi (1962). Britain had literally ‘struck oil’ in its Gulf colonies.
In the 1960’s, in an effort to solidify UK access to intelligence, petroleum and political clout, the British secret service (SAS/MI6) replaced Abu Dhabi’s then Sheik Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan with his brother Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In 1970 Timothy Landon (SAS) oversaw a bloodless coup replacing Sultan Said bin Taimur with his son Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said. The British GCHQ and later the NSA established sigint listening posts in the Gulf States. The UAE was now a strategically significant hub for geopolitics in general, and for Middle East events in particular.
Another example of ‘strange bedfellows’ is the neighboring Gulf State of Qatar, where the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) has a forward HQ since 2002, now situated at Al Udeid Air Base. At the same time as serving the Americans, Qatar is the chief bankroller of much of the Middle East’s anti-American terror groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Syrian Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIS/Da’esh, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, extremist groups in Iraq and in Libya. U.S. official policy continues, ostrich-like, to hide its head in the sand about these matters.
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is the capitol of the UAE. The previous Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (died in 2004) held aggressively anti-Israel views. He founded the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up (1999), a ritzy think-tank for the Arab League. The list of speakers included political glitterati like U.S. former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former Vice-President Al Gore, former Secretary of State James Baker, and former French President Jacques Chirac. Simultaneously the Center was a virulent platform for the dissemination of anti-American, anti-Semitic and extreme anti-Israel views. Here is a partial list of speakers and lecture topics at the Center:
- Muhammad Khalifa Al Murar, then Executive Director of the Zayed Centre, denied the Holocaust, describing Jews as “enemies of all nations” and “cheaters whose greed knows no bounds.”
- Dr. Umayma Al-Jalahma, discussed her article explaining how Jews use the blood of non-Jews for pastries for the Jewish holiday of Purim.
- PLO Ambassador Rami Tahboub, stated that Israel was trying to control the Palestinian population through lacing the water supply of Palestinian schools with “chemical drugs.”
- Michael Collins Piper, a Washington-based political writer and conspiracy theorist, claimed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an infamous anti-Semitic forgery created in the 19th century to vilify Jews) are “not a theory but a real fact,” that Israel is developing an ethnic bomb that will kill only Arabs, and that the Mossad was responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Watergate scandal and the Monica Lewinsky affair.
In 2003 after Western protests, Sheikh Zayed himself shut down the Center, one year before he passed away in 2004.
This deep anti-Jewish heart attitude is wrapped around UAE’s spiritual roots. It has never been acknowledged, repented of or publicly forsaken. Investigative reporting stays far away from this subject, especially when peace deals are being trotted out. But anti-Semitism in the UAE is something that should trigger intercession in the hearts of those who love the Jewish people and their state.
Tribes with flags
“Tribes With Flags” is a phrase attributed to Egyptian diplomat Tahseen Bashir: “Egypt is the only nation-state in the Arab world. All the rest – forgive me – are just tribes with flags.” Bashir’s pride in his country Egypt shines through, though it is worth remembering that the Bible describes Egypt as a Hamitic country and not as a Semitic or Arab one (Psalm 78:12, 43, 51; 105:23, 27; 106:21-22).
The history of the UAE’s inhabitants is living proof of this ‘tribes with flags’ proverb. UAE has a total population of 9,890,402, of which only 11.6% are Emiratis. The majority of the working population are expatriates – South Asian 59.4% (Indian 38.2%, Bangladeshi 9.5%, Pakistani 9.4%, other 2.3%), Egyptian 10.2%, Philippine 6.1%, and other backgrounds12.8%.
Today’s Arab Emiratis come from an original mix of 44 migrating tribes (today 67 in number) who moved in successive waves of population movement from Yemen and southern Nejd [Al Yamamah and Riyadh regions in modern Saudi Arabia] into Oman and what is today called UAE. The predominant tribe in modern UAE is Banu Yas, an Arab but non-Abrahamic tribe whose Qaḥṭāni forefather was Elhaf bin Quda’a. Since many people assume that all Muslims (or all Arabs, or all Bedouin) are descended from Ishmael, a clarification of this matter is in order.
Scholars of Arab genealogy recognize that the majority of the Arab peoples predate Ishmael, and that those descended from Ishmael are a minority. Arabs are usually divided into two groups:
- al-‘arab al-bâ‘ida, ‘the Extinct Arabs’ – ancient Arab tribes of prehistory
- al-‘arab i bâqiya, ‘the Surviving Arabs’ – the Arabs who continued to dwell in the larger Arabian peninsula
These ‘Surviving Arabs’ are furthered divided into two groups – those whose historical origins traditionally begin with Shem, and those whose appearance traditionally begins with Ishmael:
Al-‘arab al-mustaʿribah or al-mutaʿrribah – ‘the Arabicized Arabs’ or ‘those who learned to speak Arabic’ or ‘those making themselves/seeking to be Arab’ – from central and northern Arabia, are called the ‘Adnāni’ group, traditionally descended from Ishmael
The majority of those who are Muslims in the world today are not Arabs. The majority of Arabs today are not related to Ishmael. And the majority of Emiratis see themselves as ‘Qaḥṭāni’ (‘pure Arabs’ of Yemenite background) – not descended from Ishmael. Nevertheless, the U.S.-brokered peace agreement between Israel and the UAE has been labeled ‘the Abraham Accords.” This goes over well in the West, where conjuring up the name ‘Abraham’ grants biblical patina and prophetic perfume to the agreement. A more accurate title for the treaty would be ‘The Isaac-Shem Accords.’
Politically correct wisdom is that the Arab world hates Israel and will remain at war with the Jewish state until the Palestinians raise Mohammed’s black jihadi flag over Jerusalem. This statement may be true of many Muslims, but there are some shades of gray here. It’s true that the Islamist roots of Jew-hatred are deeply embedded in religious texts, and these teachings are ardently believed by many in the Muslim world. Yet a popular proverb in the Middle East still notes that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Others add a dry postscript, “The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.”
So what has pushed UAE to the negotiating table, considering that Israel and UAE have had thriving clandestine relations for many years in areas of intelligence, military cooperation, trade, hi-tech and medical research? The answers are eminently clear.
Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, Founder and President of the Emirates Policy Center and Professor of Political Science at United Arab Emirates University, gets right to the point: “The United Arab Emirates and its partners . . . Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco have formed an alliance to counter the challenges that Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood pose . . . The UAE fears that Tehran interpreted the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on its nuclear programme as a signal that world powers would accept Iranian regional hegemony . . . As the nucleus of this alliance, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have the opportunity to create a new regional order . . . The UAE faces a dilemma in that it wants to push back against Tehran’s regional expansion but also recognizes that Iran is its second-largest trading partner.”
The Sunni UAE sheep are deeply troubled by the ever-louder growling coming from the Shi’ite Iran wolf. Iranian nuclear weapons are a direct threat to UAE’s independence and survival. Former President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran truly frightened America’s allies, be they Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt or Israel.
UAE still feels the need to walk gingerly regarding Iran. Their Minister of State for Foreign Affairs recently took pains to stress that “the UAE-Israeli peace treaty is a sovereign decision not directed at Iran. We say this and repeat this.” Official Iranian media responded that Iran threatens to attack UAE over the Israel deal.
A popular Arab newspaper brings added insight that “the UAE wants to build a concrete axis against Turkey and Qatar” – both are major bankrollers of the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadi terror. Turkey, Qatar and Iran are conspiring together against UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and pro-Western Libyan forces, using military proxies and threatening international shipping lanes and commercial activities.
Meir Dagan, Israeli Mossad Director from 2002 to 2011, said in an interview before his death in 2016: “There is an intersection of interests, not a small one, between us and many of the Arab states . . . The interests of most of those states – Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, Morocco, and so on – did not correspond with those of radical Shiite revolutionaries or their allies in Damascus, let alone their heavily armed proxy militias. Those Arab states mostly feared the thought of Iran with a nuclear weapon, maybe more so than Israel.” The motivations for UAE to sign a peace treaty with Israel are existential and not emotional. And U.S. Presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s declaration that he will re-institute Obama’s pro-Iranian JCPOA has set the fuses burning again for Gulf Arabs.
Israeli commentator Moshe Dann adds that “the UN Security Council’s recent decision not to extend sanctions on Iran and the inability of UNIFIL to prevent, or at least contain Hezbollah’s hegemony are indications that the international community does not care about the danger to Sunni Arab states, and will empower Iran. Supporting Israel, therefore, as a bulwark against Iran and Hezbollah, makes sense.”
- If Iran were not hell-bent on obtaining nuclear weapons, if ex-President Obama had not significantly strengthened Iran at the expense of America’s traditional Middle Eastern allies, and if the Muslim Brotherhood were not striving mightily on the path of jihad to overthrow UAE’s leaders, there might never have been a peace agreement between Israel and UAE.
Bob Dylan sings that “we live in a political world, turning and a-thrashing about. As soon as you’re awake, you’re trained to take what looks like the easy way out.” Israel is an intensely political country. We have had three elections within 12 months and the possibility of a fourth is looming. November sees a U.S. election which still looks too close to call. Pulling off the first Middle East peace treaty in over 25 years looks good on anyone’s CV. At a recent rally held at an airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, US President Donald Trump declared, “And we moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. That’s for the evangelicals!” Along with biblical principles and geopolitical strategizing, domestic politics in both countries remain a priority in the whole equation.
There’s a line from a song by Al Stewart ‘On the border’: “Late last night the rain was knocking at my window . . . I thought I saw down in the street the spirit of the century telling us that we’re all standing on the border.” And another line from the Eagles: “I’m stuck on the border. All I wanted was some peace of mind. Don’t you tell me ‘bout your law and order. I’m trying to change this water to wine!”
One of the pillars of the deal between Israel and the UAE is set on sinking sand – connecting the Abraham Accords treaty to Israel stepping back from applying sovereignty to portions of the Land promised by YHVH to Jacob. This pillar buttresses goals which run afoul of biblical teaching, perspective and prophecy. Many in the world will either ignore or mock these biblical principles. Nevertheless, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The third and most recent Israeli election saw both major parties campaigning on record to extend sovereignty over 30% of the West Bank. This was in accordance with President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’ Some big bumps in the road (COVID-19 pandemic, international economic shuddering, domestic U.S. and Israeli politics) have dialed down present White House appetite for such an Israeli step. And of course Trump’s deal involves the establishment of a Palestinian state on 70% of the territory promised by the God of Israel to the people of Israel. Though some (including some in Israel) feel that such an action would be a short-term step in the right direction, others are concerned that this move runs counter to God’s clear declarations in Scripture.
- “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Yehoshafat; YHVH judges). Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations. And they have divided up My land” (Joel 3:1-2)
From the geo-strategic angle, the United Arab Emirates have no common border with Israel. The native population of that country (apart from the 88% who are short-term workers) consists of desert Bedouin who migrated to that area of the Gulf Coast over the past millennium to engage in pearling, fishing and date farming. They are relative newcomers to the region now called the UAE. Why should they have been given a decisive say in determining Israel’s borders, and in causing Israel to step back from embracing the Land that YHVH promised to the sons and daughters of Jacob through the real ‘Abraham Accord’ – the Abrahamic covenant?
YHVH said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward. For all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:14-17)
And He said to him, “I am YHVH who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day YHVH made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite” (Genesis 15:7, 17-21)
Some ambitious politicians (to paraphrase the Eagles’ lyrics) are “trying to change this Middle Eastern water into wine” – trying to strengthen temporary military and intelligence connections between the Gulf States and Israel, thereby blocking the expansionist jihad of Iran, Turkey and Qatar. But at the same time these politicians are brushing aside God’s burning promises to the Jewish people; they are ignoring His sober threats against anyone who would lend a hand to dividing up the Promised Land.
In the meantime UAE is hoping that Iran will now think twice before attacking it with an army of swarming drones. And many Israelis are excited about taking their next vacation (whenever that may be!) in Dubai . . .
There is an old Yiddish tale about an old beggar trudging along the country road with a heavy pack on his shoulders. A merchant came by with a wagonload of produce bound for the county market. He saw the old beggar, felt sorry for him and invited him to get into the wagon. After a few minutes of traveling together in silence, the merchant saw that the beggar was sitting quietly with the pack still on his shoulders. “Why don’t you put the pack down?” he exclaimed in surprise. The old beggar replied, “May the Highly Exalted One bless you! It’s enough that you’re carrying me! Do I have to burden you with my pack besides?”
When you offer a ride to the Jewish people, you need to be also ready to help them carry their ‘backpack’ – their covenantal promises. Israel has been carrying the blessed ‘backpack’ of these gifts and calling (one of these gifts is the Land of Israel; see Romans 9:1-5; 11:28-29) for millennia across the face of this planet. But be careful: the burden of the Land must be correctly carried! If not, the stone of Jerusalem (see Zechariah 12:2-3) can cause a painful hernia and bring damaging pain to any nation who picks up this burden carelessly.
In Deuteronomy 32:8-10 YHVH declares that He alone establishes the borders of all nations, and His decisions are based on His priority of heart for Israel. The complete opposite of this divine principle occurs when the nations of the world attempt to define Israel’s borders according to their own wisdom. And that is exactly what the ‘Abraham Accords’ are attempting to do. The Bible makes this point crystal clear: God is not at all pleased. Psalm 2 reveals His reactions and His coming responses: He laughs. He scoffs. He speaks to the nations in His anger and terrifies them in His fury. He will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware (Psalm 2:4-9). We need to get ready for serious days ahead.
- Pray for divine Scripture-based understanding to be imparted to the leaders of this ‘peace process’
- Pray for Jewish people and believers everywhere to get a divine download about God’s perspectives regarding the Land and the international attempts to divide it
- Pray for the raising up of the Ezekiel 37 prophetic army among the Jewish people
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,