Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain just signed the “Abraham Accords” establishing full diplomatic recognition between the Jewish State and two Persian Gulf nations. President Trump can wear this particular feather in his cap. But as with all agreements, questions arise.
Establishing embassies, exchanging ambassadors and doing business deals are good. Yet Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have participated in under-the-table relationships for years, pre-dating the Trump administration. And this is not a peace agreement. Israel and the two Gulf states never fought a war. Still, the Abraham Agreements hopefully will eliminate any financial support from the UAE and Bahrain—or its citizens—for terrorism waged against Israel and the West.
Watching the event, a few other thoughts came to mind. For one, President Trump mentioned “a common enemy.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called out Iran by name. I noted that Bibi stood to Trump’s immediate right, the position of honor.
Trump mentioned other Arab nations soon coming on board. Speculation includes Oman, Kuwait, Morocco and Sudan. As to Saudi Arabia, its aged King Salman insists on a Palestinian state being part of an agreement. (More in a moment.) But his reign will soon end. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman may appease his father now but likely will enter the accords when he becomes king.
Note that these potential signees to agreements with Israel are Sunni Muslim nations like the UAE and Bahrain, although Bahrain has a minority Sunni royal class and a Shiite majority. These countries have lined up against Shiite Iran in a battle—cold and hot—for Gulf dominance. Iran also remains hostile to Israel. An Israeli-Sunni collaboration—again, going on sub rosa for years—will put increasing pressure on Tehran.
Unfortunately, it may not end the threat of regional war and perhaps lead to one.
Iran’s response remains to be seen but may have been foreshadowed during the ceremony when a lone rocket was fired from Gaza towards Ashdod, Israel. What next? Harsher Iranian harassment of Gulf shipping? Fast-boat attacks on U.S. naval vessels? Iranian proxies—Hezbollah and Hamas—staging terrorist attacks on Israel? The UAE and Bahrain? The West?
Meanwhile, the Palestinians, who’ve passed on several chances to achieve independence, seem the losers. Neither Trump nor Netanyahu mentioned them, although UAE minister of foreign affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abdulatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Bahrain’s foreign minister, called for a two-state solution. Sheikh Abdullah hailed a Palestinian state as the foundation of regional peace. That’s unlikely while Trump and Netanyahu remain in office. And they signed the agreements.
So what will the Palestinians do now? And how will Jordan’s huge and restive Palestinian population respond?
A last interesting tidbit. Sheikh Abdullah stressed the UAE’s scientific achievements—a Martian probe and an astronaut sent to the International Space Station. The Sheikh promotes science and its advancement through ties with Israel. His White House host scorns science.
On the whole, Israelis will sense a touch more peace in their lives even as the country struggles with the COVID pandemic and a new national lockdown. All three nations will engage in healthy commercial and cultural opportunities.
Here at home, we should welcome the Abraham Accords. Perhaps they’ll stimulate a culturally and politically divided U.S. to develop our own American Accords.
For all of you celebrating Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year (5781) tonight—Shana Tovah. May this be a good year—certainly better than last. And to everyone: health and peace!
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