Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, The University of Tokyo
There are times when we witness a sea change appears in front of us. It can also be said as a moment when paradigm shifts. The announcement of the historic accord between the UAE and Israel might be an event which brings a tectonic change in the international order of the Middle East.
The anticipated establishment of the formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE, as well as other Gulf and Arab countries which might follow, would change profoundly the landscape of the Middle East.
It affects the perception by the East Asian industrial countries on the Middle East hugely. For Japan, South Korea and then China, the nightmare scenario which they would avoid to be faced with is the “Oil Shock” in which an Arab Israeli conflict leads to an embargo or interruption of oil supply and the East Asian nations are deprived of vital energy for their economy.
The fear or obsession of the sudden cut of the oil supply caused by the flare-up of the Arab Israeli confrontation was one of the factors which have been hindering Japan’s more active involvement in the Middle East. The days of oil embargo coordinated by the OAPEC has long gone but Japanese ministry officials and company executives have been haunted by the institutional memory of the latent instability of the Arab Israeli relations.
The landslide or bandwagon effects expected to be touched off by the UAE initiative would be a game-changer dissipating the hesitance of the oil-dependent East Asian industrial countries in involving themselves more actively the Middle East affairs.
We must be careful with the differences in tones among three parties. The triumphant Trump is obviously willing to make the most of this achievement and sell it to the American voters for his reelection. The over-joyous Netanyahu is desperate in his last-minutes effort to salvage his dying tenure as prime minister, buying time for achieving something before the days of Trump’s first term are numbered.
Contrasted is the subdued and cautious attitude in the announcement by Abu Dhabi leadership. But still we can justifiably say something historic is happening.
There have been debates within Arab and Middle Eastern radical movements over the way they should take to reach Jerusalem. For some, it passes through Cairo, for others it’s Baghdad. Some others boasted of the road which runs through Karbala. It’s all part of the history now. No one would have expected that it goes through Abu Dhabi.