What Arab-Israel agreements mean for broader Middle East peace
Seventy-two years after the creation of the modern state of Israel, growing numbers of Arab and Muslim nations are reaching what should be an obvious conclusion: the Jewish state is here to stay, and it makes sense to establish diplomatic and trade relations.
This conclusion was a key driver of the decision by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to sign agreements with Israel at the White House Tuesday normalizing relations. It is also why President Trump said he expects five or six more Arab and Muslim nations to normalize relations with Israel in the near future.
This is good news not just for Israel, but for the Middle East, the U.S. and much of the world. And it sends a clear message to the aging Palestinian leaders who refuse to even sit down to negotiate a fair and just peace with Israel: Arab-Israeli peace will not be held hostage any longer to wildly unrealistic and uncompromising Palestinian demands that no Israeli government could ever accept.
PALESTINIANS REVIEW STRATEGY WITH ARAB LEAGUE AMID HISTORIC TREATIES WITH ISRAEL
Palestinian terrorists in Gaza registered their opinion of the peace agreements by launching rockets into southern Israel, sending Israeli civilians rushing into bomb shelters. Early reports said at least two people were injured. The Israel Defense Force responded Wednesday morning with aircraft attacks on 10 Hamas terrorist group targets, including a training base and munitions factory, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The first peace treaty and establishment of normalized relations between Israel and an Arab country came in 1979 with Egypt; the next in 1994 with Jordan. It would take another 26 years — until Tuesday — for more nations to come on board, with the signing of agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.
There is a palpable sense of momentum that the agreements signed Tuesday will be just the first of a series.
And while it received little attention in the U.S. media, another positive step was the decision last week by Kosovo — a Muslim state in Europe — to not only establish relations with Israel, but also to locate its embassy in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
Sadly, of all the European nations that kept lecturing the United States to spend more effort on bringing peace to the Middle East, only Hungary deigned to send a senior representative to the White House ceremony that featured President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain.
And just as sadly, several left-wing Israeli politicians and their attending choir of protesters poured cold water on the signing by lamenting the abandonment of the Palestinian issue.
Importantly, a major driver of the decision by the UAE, Bahrain and hopefully more Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel is the threat the Arab World sees from Iran.
They were joined in their woe in Washington by several news commentators and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. She dismissed the agreements signed at the White House as “a distraction” by Trump from the coronavirus pandemic and complained that the Palestinian issue was not addressed.
This is an absurd argument that fails to recognize the historic importance of the agreements signed Tuesday to advance the long-sought goal of peace between Israel and its neighbors. Certainly, much remains to be accomplished, but the agreements with the UAE and Bahrain are highly significant.
In truth, the real abandonment of the Palestinian people has come from their own leaders, who refuse to make a peace with Israel that would lead to a vast improvement in the lives of the Palestinians with new opportunities for trade, jobs and regional cooperation.
Two years ago, Trump critics also blasted his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, claiming this would end any chances for peace. They were proven wrong by the UAE and Bahrain.
At the core of the European diplomatic slight, the American left’s dismissiveness, and the symbolic but irrelevant launching of missiles by terrorists in Gaza was the belief that the resolution of the Palestinian issue is a precondition to advance regional peace.
And yet, four peace treaties reveal quite a different pattern. President Trump understand this, which is why he pursued peace between Arab nations and Israel rather than giving Palestinians a permanent veto of all efforts to end 72 years of Arab hostility toward the Jewish state.
Importantly, a major driver of the decision by the UAE, Bahrain and hopefully more Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel is the threat the Arab World sees from Iran, which is hostile not just to Israel and the U.S. but to Sunni Muslim Arab states. It makes sense for the Arab nations to join with Israel and the U.S. as allies against the Iranian menace.
To his great credit, President Trump reinvigorated American pressure on Iran by withdrawing from the deeply flawed nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration. As a result, confidence grew again among allies that the United States appreciated the indispensability of its power. But it was inescapable to other nations that the United States was entering a period of internal upheaval, turning inward.
The proclivity since World War II of Washington elites had been to demand that our allies yield to restraint and subordinate their bilateral relations to American intermediation and submit to the lead of our diplomats. In return for this, America would carry the burden of defending our allies.
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The Trump administration upended the arrangement. We now ask our allies to carry their fair share of defending themselves so we can do less. At the same time, the Trump administration has untethered allies to purse their interests with less deference to demands for restraint by the U.S., but in coordination with each other.
The result was dramatized by the agreements signed Tuesday between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel: More and more Arab nations realize they have to reach out to Israel and band together to pursue their interests, even survival. They understand they can no longer afford the luxury of being held hostage to Palestinian vagaries.
Once again, Palestinian aspirations were acknowledged in the agreements signed Tuesday, including a halt at least temporarily to Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank that the Palestinians want for their own state. But peace and strategic cooperation transcended the Palestinian decades-old veto.
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The agreements signed Tuesday should be a wake-up call to Palestinian leaders: they can no longer dictate to the entire Arab World to block peace and normal relations with Israel. Arab nations will rightly pursue their own self-interest — and that means cooperation with Israel must inevitably replace confrontation.
Indeed, it is likely that the Palestinian people themselves — not leaders, but those who live in daily contact with Israel — are arriving at this same conclusion. At some point, even Palestinian leaders will have to conclude that endless hostility to Israel is not in their own self-interest.
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