Having spent time in Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), waking up to news that President Trump has managed to get those two countries – historic enemies – to ink a peace deal was riveting. Pathbreaking? Yes. Major implications? Yes. Predicted? No. Likely to garner applause from Democrats – probably not. Here is what the deal means for Americans.
Described by mainstream media as Trump’s “first genuine foreign policy success,” this deal is important to both signatories, peace prospects for the Middle East – and America’s role. See, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/uae-israel-deal-trump-s-first-genuine-foreign-policy-success-n1236769.
While 153 countries recognize Israel, which gained statehood in 1948, 31 members of the United Nations do not. Among 22 countries of the Middle East, only Egypt and Jordan have had stable – sometimes testy – diplomatic relations with Israel.
In total, 19 of 22 Arab League members do not recognize Israel, including Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Of course, radical Islamic Iran does not.
But this represents a turning point. UAE has had no diplomatic relations with Israel for decades. Notably, as early as 2009, Israel and UAE encouraged the United States to get tough on Iran, source of global terror and instability. The Obama-Biden team refused, softening relations.
This deal, by contrast, resets the table. It opens the door to peace by breaking the code, showing how it can be done. Put differently, the Trump team managed – working with these countries – to line up the tumblers and get a click. That click is significant.
First, for the two countries this represents a show of acumen, persistence, commitment to peace, and diplomatic can-do. In practical terms, the deal helps political leaders, improves trade and security relations, and represents a conscious pivot to a hopeful future.
While UAE sees the agreement as a “roadmap” for “normalization” and Israel is cautious, the idea is that Israel will “suspend” annexation of the West Bank “in return for normalizing relations with the Emirates.” Immediate steps, according to the White House, include “bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.”
Ahead, things get brighter. “Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economies will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation, and forging closer people-to-people relations.” See, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-israel-uae-peace-agreement.
Implications are many. While caution attaches to any Middle East peace, the accord may unlock others. Trump’s speech of May 2017 in Riyad set the tone. He asked all parties – including dozens of Arab countries – to rethink the parameters for peace. They did. See, https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=middle+east+speech+trump+saudi&docid=607993169642326282&mid=346F7695B6F2A6EBE7B9346F7695B6F2A6EBE7B9&view=detail&FORM=VIRE.
At the same time, Trump firmly reset relations with Iran and expectations for European allies. He began to remake a world centered on the possibility of peace. He refused to legitimize Iran’s terror. Slowly, things began to change. Beyond positive outcomes for the deal’s signatories, this achievement has reawakening of the idea that peace is possible in the Middle East. That alone is huge.
The second implication is that countries who dare reach peace with Israel – and with which Israel dares peace – may reap major trade, security, and diplomatic benefits, including with America. While European countries hope for permanent commitments by Israel, they are hard pressed to talk down the accord. The US stepped up – and this one is real. See, e.g., https://guardian.ng/news/world/eu-welcomes-israel-uae-deal/.
Wider implications are worth considering. If the US can broker a deal with UAE, who else could the Trump Administration bring to the table? Could critical mass be reached across the Middle East, turning bilateral accords into a regional accord? Could greater unity among Arab states on recognizing Israel tip the balance decisively against Iran?
Could European sentiments turn in favor of pressing Iran to back off terrorism, nuclear and missile development? Could the shift begin a rethink about regional alignments with China? And could bilateral deals – trigger wider diplomatic peace initiatives in a second Trump term?
Answers to these difficult questions are unknown, yet the questions are again – for the first time in decades – relevant. If the Trump White House, showing extraordinary patience, leadership, flexibility, and commitment – to both Arabs and Israel – can pull off such a deal, what is ahead?
Interestingly, even longtime Trump critics are muted by the enormity of the deal, some giving the President a clear nod. In short, this is a “game changer.” It represents the sort of step that happens infrequently, once in a generation. Where the step leads is unclear, but hopeful. Credit belongs to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, Advisor Jerad Kushner, and Team Trump.
That said, one must touch on politics – of course. As the Trump White House works with both nations to implement this pathbreaking deal, widen its impact in and beyond the region, and reinforce benefits for all who seek peace – which reflects on America’s commitment peace – there are always detractors and pretenders. What is new?
While Iran bashes the deal and derides peace, Democrat Joe Biden says credit belongs to him. Wrote Biden – or someone for him – the deal stems from “efforts of the Obama-Biden administration,” adding “I personally spent time with leaders of both Israel and the UAE during our administration building the case for cooperation and broader engagement and the benefits it could deliver to both nations, and I am gratified by today’s announcement.” Right.
My sense is words must exist in Hebrew and Arabic for this sort of behavior – shameless credit grabbing, honor stealing, and idiotic self-promotion. Truth and trust are central to peace – which is why this deal is happening now and did not previously. A leading Muslim scholar, who hailed the Trump deal, called Biden’s claim “craven.” Enough said. Somethings change. Others never do. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-israel-uae-peace-deal-biden-muslim-quanta-ahmed.