With Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed up for nomination, many wonder if the prestigious award is actually a fair reflection of its name.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize - a decision that has raised many eyebrows.
Nobel laureate David Trimble made the nomination in recognition of the pair’s recent normalisation deal, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE.
News of the nomination by Trimble, who won the award for his part in bringing peace to Northern Ireland in 1998, was scrutinised for more than just the fact that the two countries have never actually been to war.
In fact, the pair have had a long standing military and intelligence alliance over the past decade, which has seen them jointly lobby for military action against their shared regional rival Iran.
Even on the individual level, each state is engaged in multiple conflicts, and in the case of the UAE, most are with countries it does not even share a border with.
Abu Dhabi’s armed forces are currently engaged in Yemen where they are simultaneously fighting Houthi rebels and supporting southern secessionists looking to break away from the recognised Yemeni government and form their own state. For good measure, the UAE also runs a wide torture network within the country and has hired mercenaries to carry out murders of political opponents.
In Libya, the country backs warlord Khalifa Haftar with weapons, cash, and occasional airstrikes.
Netanyahu for his part presides over an Israel regime that has put the final nails in the coffin of the two-state solution. This is coupled with regular outbursts of deadly violence against the Palestinians with notable recent examples including the killings of 183 Palestinian protesters and the wounding of more than 6,000 others in besieged Gaza in demonstrations demanding the right to return to their homeland.
A peace prize for men of war?
The Nobel Peace Prize criteria has never been limited to pacifists only but includes those who work to end war, irrespective of the past role they may have played in fighting them and starting them.
Alfred Nobel, who’s financial endowment led to the creation of the Nobel committee and the peace prize, was himself a scientist who invented dynamite.
In his will, he wrote that the prize was for: “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
There was nothing therein that would exclude people with figurative blood on their hands, and therefore peace activists like Malala Yousufzai have found themselves in the esteemed company of individuals like Henry Kissinger, who once commenting on the bombing of Cambodia, said: “I may have a lack of imagination, but I fail to see the moral issue.”
But while the idea to award military men and politicians who start wars might be to encourage the value of redemption from past sin, in reality the peace prize does little to deter laureates from future participation or incitement towards conflict.
And participate they have. Notable laureates who later went on to take part in wars include former US President Barack Obama, who won the award in 2009 for his efforts to foster “international diplomacy’, but who went on to establish a reputation for his use of drones in countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia, killing hundreds of civilians.
Others include Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the prize for his efforts to end his country’s decades-old conflict with Eritrea, but who has also found himself mired in a new conflict with ethnic Tigrayans in the country’s north.
Even assuming no value judgement in the decision to go to war in either case, the idea of Nobel peace laureates commanding armies in battle is an incongruous image.
Returning to the example of Netanyahu and Bin Zayed, there is not even a past example of conflict resolution to merit the claim that they have served the cause of peace. There is a big distinction between coming together to end a war, and coming together to fight your existing conflicts better.