The Biden administration has signaled in many ways that while now is not a propitious time for any significant breakthroughs when it comes to the so-called “two state solution,” it remains as an enduring and important goal of American foreign policy. It is pitched as the way to resolve the Israel-Palestinian dispute and thereby enable peace in the Middle East. In fact, even when indicating support for the Abraham Accords as a promising enterprise, from President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken on down members of the Biden team never fail to pay homage to “two states,” however much it is in passing. We hope they will come to realize that it is the Abraham Accords that should be central to their thinking.
And here is why.
A little over a week ago the Jerusalem Post reported that State Department officials are working to expand the Abraham Accords in ways that can advance progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a briefing to reporters prior to a meeting between Abraham Accord participant countries and Secretary of State Blinken, State Department officials emphasized that the Accords were not a substitute for the two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Post quoted one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity saying, “We continue to welcome the economic cooperation between Israel and all countries in the region. We hope that normalization can be leveraged to advance progress on the Israeli-Palestinian tracks.”
Senate Democrats took the same stance, only they were even more focused on the goal of a Palestinian state. Thus, a recent delegation of four leading Democratic senators with a special interest in foreign affairs visited Israel in order to meet the new Bennett government and discuss regional issues, including the Israel-Palestinian issue.
As reported in the Jerusalem Post, after meeting with PM Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted “We expressed our hopes for the success of the new government and our strong support for a two-state future.” His delegation included Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and two other outspoken critics of Israel’s Palestinian policy, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen and Jon Ossoff of Georgia.
Whatever one thinks about the idea of a Palestinian state, in terms of the future of the Middle East this talk about its centrality is all so much blather. Logic now dictates that the fate of the Palestinians will have little impact on the course of Middle East history going forward. Rather it is the progress of the Abraham Accords that promises to drive events.
Commentators have generally confused the issue by stressing that the Abraham Accords are but a means of forming a military and economic alliance against Iran. But there is something even more fundamental in play as well. And therein lies the real tale and not a very complicated one. Rulers of Gulf Arab states have been able to stay in power not because they have put in place robust, self-propelling economies capable of satisfying the needs of their people. Rather they have been able to keep their people in line through broad programs of artificial subsidies and imports made possible by their enormous oil revenues.
But everyone has now come to see that the handwriting is on the wall for oil revenues as the financial mainstay in the Arab world. Electric and solar power are the looming wave of the future. And so, Arab leaders needed a way to leapfrog into the modern world of technology, economics and science. And where else than Israel – a leader in all three – should they have looked. Israel needs friends in its neighborhood and is also a surefire gateway to Arab modernity. Hence, the Abraham Accords were a natural. And yes, they also all share a need to unite in the face of the growing threat posed by Iran.
We hold no brief for the despotic and often inhumane Arab leadership. But it seems a self-evident proposition that avoiding the unraveling and upheavals that will follow the Arab loss of oil revenues –if they are not also able to build Western style economies to provide the goods and services their people require –is in the national interest of both the United States and Israel. The Biden Administration must fully embrace the Abraham Accords even though it was Donald Trump who came up with the idea.