Thursday, August 13, 2020

Peace Between Israel and the United Arab Emirates


AKA - Brilliant Netanyahu, and the luckiest outcome Trump could have hoped for.  And Biden wins too.... The UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said the agreement would stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories, for which Israel had been awaiting a green light from Washington.

From the beginning, Jared Kushner's "Trump Peace Plan" was doomed to fail.  Its purpose was not to bring Palestinians and Israelis together, nor to create a peace treaty in the region.  Its purpose was consolidation of power over territory as a path to permanent status quo.  That permanence was proposed to be the kind of stable environment which can allow economic development and ultimately prosperity.  Unfortunately it ignored any political views on the Palestinian side, and half of the political views on the Israeli side.  As an exercise in power it might have worked, but it wasn't a peace process or an agreement or anything the world of diplomacy would have endorsed.

For months, Netanyahu has realized he hasn't the support in the Knesset to implement annexation, and as a result he has dropped the topic as the country consolidated a Unity government, addressed two waves of COVID and then began the current spat over the budget which may send the country to a FOURTH election in less than two years.  The Trump plan and annexation were dead on arrival. How embarrassing.  With the elections looming, it stood as a stark example of a foreign policy initiative pushed by an inexperienced White House that had abandoned its own State Department and our national track record as an honest broker in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  Alongside the weakening of NATO, the -what-was-that- with North Korea, and the confusion in Belarus and Ukraine about our view of Russia, Trump was in trouble.

Thank you, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, whose hatred of Iran is greater than his love of the Palestinians.  Today the UAE and Israel signed an historic peace agreement, furthering the spread of acceptance of Israel in the Arab world.  This is an inevitable development, as "real" conflicts continue to take precedence over "ideological" ones in the Persian Gulf.  The United States looks like a diplomat.  Israel looks like it might give "land for peace," though actually it is not taking new land for peace, and the UAE becomes the darling of the International Community and the United States.  Trump is saved from a failure, Netanyahu can claim peace bona fides.  Even former VP Joe Biden, poised to win the Presidential election in the fall, is saved from the split in the pro-Israel community that was growing on the topic of annexation.  The Democrats and Republicans fought over the Iran deal, and were about to go at it again.  Now, with no annexation, everyone wins.

After flirting seriously with Oman last leader, Sultan Qaboos, z"l, Prime Minister Netanyahu has continued to work hard at making inroads with the Gulf States.  Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and Oman have all stepped back from old rhetoric over the past 5 years only to reaffirm the Arab front in times of political convenience.  The truth is that they are all fair game for normalization of relations because they don't have an ideology that demands any particular point of view.  Each is a family run state, where the state economy and the family business are inextricably intertwined.  That means a successful state has peace and prosperity, both of which can be attained with Israel as a partner.

The bottom line is this:  the regional enemy is Iran, not Israel.  The Persian Gulf nations each have their own reason to get on board with the international concept of peace.  As this continues, they can and should extract promises from Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.  For peace with the Arab world, concessions can be made.

Now, the ball is once again in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, who is already rejecting the peace announcement and calling it a stab in the back.  Can they take the concept of peace for leverage, and engage the Arab World in a recognition process that can win them the state they want?  History says probably not.  But the truth is, Netanyahu, Trump, Biden and Zayed can all live with the new status quo and it is Mahmoud Abbas who can not.

An excellent analysis can be found here