Thursday, September 24, 2020



With all of the original back-and-forth of the arguments over the Abraham Accords, we were treated to an array of claims that the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE--Bahrain is not such a big deal.

Maybe there is something to that. 

After all, consider Obama's disastrous deal with Iran and the role it played in creating the instability and outright fear that generated an incentive for Arab countries to develop ties with Israel. 

Indeed, one of the most unusual moments of my trip was to hear certain Arab security officials effectively compete with one another for who has the better relationship with Israel. In this regard, times have certainly changed. [emphasis added]
And the Democrats have made it clear they intend to re-establish the Iran Deal if Biden becomes president.

Not that peaceful Arab relations with Israel are impossible without distrust of bad US policy. After all, there have been levels of Israel-Arab diplomatic relations before Obama, and they existed without a need for US leaders to intercede.

The difference is that those diplomatic communications were carried out privately, behind the scenes.

In fact, they were successful enough that those private relations were offered as a reason against the Abraham Accords, as argued by Israeli activist Boaz Ha'etzni:
Ha’etzni points out that Israel always had relations with Jordan, since 1948, yet secret relations. And because they were secret, Israel never had to pay a price, until an official peace deal was made in 1994. Thanks to the deal, Israel then had to give away Israeli land [the Island of Peace, or Al-Baqoura] and hand over a huge amount of water each year to Jordan that hurts Israel during the drought years. In addition, since the deal was signed, Jordan has to prove to the Arab world and to its own citizens that peaceful relations with Israel is just a show. Hence, Jordan is one of the worst states in the UN always co-sponsoring and supporting anti-Israel resolutions. [emphasis added]
So what is the benefit of a public and official agreement like the Abraham Accord? 

In addition to the usual economic and military reasons for the accord, a key benefit is not about Arab states improving ties with Israel -- but rather improving ties with the US.

Full and normal relations with Israel raise the UAE and Bahrain to a new category: from “friendly Arab countries that sell us oil” to “best Arab friends of our own best friend, Israel.”

Not only does that strengthen the U.S. insurance policy, it also lines up the pro-Israel lobby in America on the side of the UAE and Bahrain. They’ve always had their own hired lobbyists in Washington, but they never had any grassroots support in America. Now they will.

It’s an upgrade, and it’s become a need-to-have in a time of American retrenchment. It’s also an open-sesame for bigger and better arms deals, and a deterrent against would-be aggressors, above all Iran. [emphasis added]
This is for the long term and goes beyond self-defense against Iran.

Another opinion goes even further in teasing out the US angle.

He says that although many talk about the Iranian context as the main motivation for the alliance created with Israel, and it is certainly possible that there is something to that, "but the Iranian interest is expressed in something much bigger," he says, explaining that the UAE as well as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia desperately want Trump re-elected next November "because if the Democrats return to power it will be a disaster for them. They will strengthen Iran, bring back the nuclear deal, and lift the sanctions. They're willing to give a lot for Trump to win. [emphasis added]
Just the threat of Joe Biden becoming president may have been enough to make peace possible.

If so, Obama and Biden are not the first Democrats to inspire the Arabs to derail their plans for the Middle East. In describing his trip to the Middle East, mentioned above, Satloff writes:
Arabs and Israelis (in that case, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin) came together to thwart President Jimmy Carter's international conference idea by pursuing an initiative on peacemaking on their own. 
At a conference on Sadat and His Legacy, Martin Indyk described the situation like this:
in 1977...the Carter administration was pushing to get the Syrians and Egyptians and everybody else to Geneva for an international conference. For Sadat, such a conference was anathema, because that meant that his policy would be tied to Syrian policy. Further, he believed the Syrians would never go to Geneva, there would never be a conference, and he would not be able to make the peace that he was so keen on making. He took a shortcut to Jerusalem as a way of diverting Washington from its purposes and getting it to back his purposes. [emphasis added]
Of course, like those Democratic presidents, Trump himself was now less intent on changing the region.

The first plan, the long awaited 'Deal of the Century,' was an attempt to obtain the elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

And there is a reason that, despite, multiple plans and attempts, such a plan has remained elusive.

This time, by working with countries with an interest in a peace agreement -- regardless of the degree of enlightened self-interest involved -- there is a real potential for a change in attitude in the region.

And as part of that change lies the potential for changing the attitude of the Palestinian Arabs, and the Palestinian Authority -- now that the PA sees that neither the US nor a united Arab world is going to strongarm Israel for them.







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