In late 2020, four Arab states—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco—agreed in close succession to normalize relations with Israel in a series of U.S.-backed agreements. This marked a high point for the Trump administration and the Israeli government’s preferred “outside-in” approach, prioritizing Israel’s ties with Arab governments located farther afield at the expense of the Palestinians. The normalizing Arab states prefaced their relationships with Israel in starkly different terms; the UAE pointed to Israel’s withdrawal of annexation plans in the West Bank as the basis for the Abraham Accords, and the other states maintained nominal commitments to the Palestinian national cause. Still, the effect was the same, reversing decades of near-consensus Arab foreign policy, including the Fahd Plan of 1981 and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which made a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a prerequisite for Arab states recognizing Israel.


The May 2021 twelve-day war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas, and the crises in Jerusalem that preceded it, delivered an ugly reminder that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could not be written off so easily. Critically, this crisis presents a window into the nature of the normalizing Arab states’ approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and whether, if at all, their newly official relations with Israel made any impact on their respective foreign policies. In particular, it is worth examining whether any of the normalizers are willing or capable of taking on a role comparable to the U.S.-supported mediation efforts of Egypt and Qatar.

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