Wednesday, March 03, 2021

  • Wednesday, March 03, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
You know things are weird when Thomas Friedman is practically the only voice of relative sanity at the New York Times.

The left-leaning media has been trying very hard to ignore the Abraham Accords as a meaningless event from the Trump era. This is to placate the Israel hating contingent who have been positioning it as yet another manifestation of Zionist evil. 

Thomas Friedman, for all his faults, sees how big a deal the new peace deals are.

[S]omething big seems to be stirring. Unlike the peace breakthroughs between Israel and Egypt, Israel and Lebanon’s Christians and Israel and Jordan, which were driven from the top and largely confined there, the openings between Israel and the Gulf States — while initiated from the top to build an alliance against Iran — are now being driven even more from the bottom, by tourists, students and businesses....

If the Abraham Accords do thrive and broaden to include normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, we are talking about one of the most significant realignments in modern Middle East history, which for many decades was largely shaped by Great Power interventions and Arab-Israeli dynamics. Not anymore.

Today, “there are three powerful non-Arab actors in the region — Iran, Turkey and Israel — and they have each constructed their own regional axis,” argues Itamar Rabinovich, the Israeli Middle East historian, who just co-wrote “Syrian Requiem,” a smart history of the Syrian civil war. Those three axes, Rabinovich explains, are Turkey with Qatar and their proxy Hamas; Iran with Syria and Iran’s proxies running Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen; and Israel with the U.A.E., Bahrain and tacitly Saudi Arabia and Oman.

It’s the interactions of these three axes, says Rabinovich, that are really driving Middle East politics today. And because the U.A.E.-Israel axis brings together the most successful Arab state with the most successful non-Arab state, it’s radiating a lot of energy.

With Israel and the U.A.E., “what you are seeing are two ecosystems fusing together,” says Gidi Grinstein, head of Reut, the Israeli strategy institute. Israel is a society that for many years faced hostility from its neighbors and had no oil. “So, over the years, Israel learned to go from isolation and scarcity to abundance and global influence by developing its own explosive innovation economy in areas such as water, solar, cyber, military, medical, finance and agriculture.”

The U.A.E., by contrast, is transitioning from decades of oil abundance to an era of oil scarcity by building its own ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship in the same fields as Israel.

The U.A.E.’s population consists of one million citizens and nine million foreigners, most of them low-wage, non-unionized laborers from India and other parts of South Asia and the rest professionals largely from America, Europe, India and the Arab world. The U.A.E.’s growth strategy for the 21st century — of which the opening to Israel is a key part — is to become THE Arab model for modernity, a diversified economy, globalization and intra-religious tolerance.

To that end, in November the country announced a major liberalization of its Islamic personal laws — allowing unmarried couples to cohabitate, which, among other things, makes the U.A.E. more accepting of gay and lesbian people; criminalizing so-called honor killings of women who “shame” their male relatives — as well as made divorce laws much more equitable for women and loosened restrictions on alcohol.

The U.A.E. is still an absolute monarchy, and a multiparty democracy is not on the menu. But greater gender equality, a more open education system and religious pluralism are. It still has work to do in all those areas, though — witness the embarrassing saga around the leader of Dubai, whose daughter is reportedly being held hostage in her father’s palace. But the U.A.E.’s new social laws constitute a big leap forward in its quest to attract the talent needed for a non-oil economy.

All the neighbors are watching, and they are particularly watching how Iran and Saudi Arabia react.

If you are a Lebanese Shiite living in the poor southern suburbs of Beirut having to scramble every day to barter eggs for meat — as the economy teeters on collapse — you’re asking, Why are we stuck with Iran and its axis of failing proxies like Hezbollah, which just keep letting the past bury our future?

That is a dangerous question for Iran and Hezbollah. And more Lebanese are asking every day. 
The importance of the accords has been obvious to anyone who isn't saddled with a reflexive anti-Israel ideology. Which is exactly why articles like this have been few and far between in mainstream media. 

Friedman, being Friedman, still has his own baggage, still trying to resurrect vestiges of the Saudi peace plan that he relentlessly pushed in 2002. 
The U.A.E., Bahrain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia need to understand that they have more leverage now to influence Israeli-Palestinian relations than they realize. Israel does not want to lose them. Imagine if Saudi Arabia agreed to join the Abraham Accords, but only on the condition that it could open the Saudi Embassy to Israel in Israeli West Jerusalem while, at the same time, opening an embassy to the Palestinians in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

Just that one move would help preserve the possibility of a two-state deal, would revitalize the 2002 Saudi peace initiative and would further isolate Iran’s axis of failure. And Israel would find it very hard to reject.
Friedman still doesn't get that the Palestinians themselves have made the Palestinians irrelevant, and the Arab states no longer want to coddle them when they can't get their own act together, split between the old guard that wants to destroy Israel politically and the terrorists who still dream of destroying Israel militarily.  The Gulf states realized that Israel is not only a permanent part of the Middle East but it is an ally that they can have a mutually beneficial relationship with, and they are disgusted that Palestinians who could have taken advantage of that dynamic instead rejected it time after time - while demanding more money.

Nevertheless, Friedman does a good job here in laying out how earth shattering the new alliances are, and the Israel haters really cannot argue.



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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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