We have long maintained that the key to peace between Israel and the Palestinians lies in the Palestinians coming to believe that they could not count on the United States and the Arab states to force Israel into ever greater concessions.
The U.S. was seen as a driver of events by virtue of its foreign and military aid and being an overall benefactor of the Jewish state. And the possibility of Arab recognition of Israel was deemed a more longer-run, continuing incentive for Israel.
After last week’s announcement of a deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, with the promise of much more to come by way of more Arab states joining the party, it seems that for the first time in a long time the ingredients for peace between Israel and the Palestinians may be falling into place.
It should be clear by now what the U.S. thinks the final borders should roughly look like, and there will be no hectoring of Israel in the Obama manner. The Palestinians have now been put on notice that the ball is in their court. If they want to negotiate, good. If they continue in their recalcitrance, that’s also good.
And the Trump peace plan is probably too far along to be altered too much by a potential Biden administration – although no one really knows. As for the Arab world conditioning recognition on concessions, that notion is history.
So the Trump deal has arguably been a rousing success. Not only did it disabuse the Palestinians of a serious misapprehension as to borders, but in providing for the Israeli annexation of the West Bank if they refused to negotiate, the UAE was given a face-saving device to justify its abandonment of the Palestinians. That is, the UAE was able to claim it avoided the annexation the Palestinians desperately wanted to avoid by agreeing to open diplomatic relations with Israel.
But as important as the effect on the Israel/Palestinian issue, the Trump deal is supplemented by his Iran policy in a vital way. In recent years, there has been a perceptible sense of cooperation between Israel and Arab Gulf states, including the UAE. That cooperation was driven by a common concern about Iranian aggressiveness and also the Arab states’ desire to benefit from Israel’s extraordinary economic, technological, and military growth. Simply put, the Arabs want to tap into Israel’s expertise as a way into the 21st century.
Further, with the U.S. trying to withdraw from being a major presence in many parts of the world, and the Iran nuclear deal signaling that the U.S. was resigned to Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, they also need to be able to depend on Israeli military cooperation in countering the Iranian threat.
It didn’t hurt that in the past year, Israel’s seemingly has bombed Iranian installations in Syria with impunity. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that Iran’s economy has been devastated which undoubtedly hobbled its ability to respond. But the overall point was not lost on the Arab states that Israel was a reliable military counterweight to Iran.
When President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement, he signaled that the U.S. would still have an abiding interest in deterring Iran. This, together with the traditionally close bond between the U.S. and Israel as evidenced by the pro-Israel Trump plan, told the Arabs that Israel loomed large in the Arab future, both militarily and non-militarily.
For more reasons than most people think then, the Trump Middle East plan really is impressive. But we have an election coming up. Let’s pray.