Expert Roundtable 1

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Israel’s Engagement with Arab States

In August, US President Donald Trump announced an agreement between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel to fully normalise relations in exchange for Israel’s suspension of plans to annex the occupied West Bank. This “normalisation deal” expanded to include Bahrain, with many expecting other Arab and Muslim-majority countries to eventually follow suit. While it has been hailed as a “historic diplomatic breakthrough” by the signing parties, the Palestinian leadership denounced the deal, calling it a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

For years, the fundamental baseline of Arab states towards any potential normalisation with Israel had been conditioned on Israel’s withdrawal from the territories it occupied after the 1967 war and its acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, with this agreement, this position has been effectively abandoned. Israel has been shown that ending the occupation of Palestinian territory is no longer a pre-requisite for forging relations with Arab states. This session will focus on the politics surrounding the ‘Abraham Accords’ and its potential impact on the region.

Discussion Themes

• Where does the normalisation deal leave Israel in a changing geopolitical environment? How does Israel benefit?

• If the deal with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain demonstrates that Israel does not need to settle the conflict with Palestinians to improve relations with Arab states, where does this leave the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the two-state solution?

• With a dysfunctional, divided leadership what are the options available to Palestinians in the face of the normalisation deal?

• Can or will any future U.S President reverse Trump-era policies with regards to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?


• Ayşe Sözen Usluer – Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the Sultanate of Oman & Former Head of International Relations Turkey’s Presidency

• Berdal Aral – Professor, Istanbul Medeniyet University

• Gideon Levy – Journalist, Haaretz

• Diana Buttu – Palestinian Human Rights Lawyer

• Azzam Tamimi – British-Palestinian Academic and Political Activist

• Mouin Rabbani – Co-Editor, Jadaliyya

• Neri Zilber – Journalist, Adjunct Fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

• Ian Black – Visiting Senior Fellow, LSE

• Alaa Tartir – Program Advisor, Al-Shabaka : The Palestinian Policy Network

• Hugh Lovatt – Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

• Mustafa Fatih Yavuz – Jerusalem Correspondent, TRT World