September 14, 2020

Bahrain-Israel Deal

“Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalize relations with Israel on Friday… A month ago, the UAE agreed to normalize ties with Israel under a U.S.-brokered deal scheduled to be signed at a White House ceremony on Tuesday hosted by Trump.” Reuters

Read our prior coverage of the Israel-UAE deal. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left is encouraged by the deal but worries that the Palestinians will be forgotten.

“This latest Arab-Israeli entente is neither a bolt from the blue nor the result of months of delicate shuttle diplomacy by the Trump administration. Israel and the Arab leaders in the Persian Gulf had been quietly cultivating ties for years, united by their common antipathy toward Iran and worries about a vacuum in the region because of American retrenchment…

“Mr. Trump’s cultivation of Saudi Arabia and its gulf neighbors was an important ingredient, as was his desire to sell these countries advanced weaponry. But it was serendipity, as much as spadework, that set the stage for the White House ceremony Tuesday at which the Israelis and Emiratis will formalize their new relationship.”
Mark Landler, New York Times

“Before the UAE-Israel agreement was announced in August, the last peace deal Israel struck with an Arab country was with Jordan in 1994 (it signed one with Egypt in 1979). Now Israel can claim it has more friends in the region, possibly reducing the pressure on it regarding its relations with Palestinians…

The question now is if more countries — like Oman and Sudan — will follow suit. If so, it may prove the Trump administration’s Middle East strategy has had some success, and prove dire for Palestinian hopes of having any real power in future negotiations with Jerusalem.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“The significance of Bahrain’s action is partly that it wouldn’t have happened without the blessing of Saudi Arabia, which is joined by a causeway to the small Persian Gulf state. The Saudis have historically exercised what amounts to a veto over Bahraini policy. In this case, the Saudis silently endorsed their tiny neighbor’s decision, rather than vetoing it… The Saudis [also] gave tacit approval to the UAE’s decision last month by publicly announcing they would allow commercial jets traveling between Israel and the Emirates to fly over Saudi territory…

“The decision by two wealthy Gulf countries to recognize Israel doesn’t help the shattered nations of the Middle East, such as Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Libya. And it doesn’t represent Middle East peace, whatever may be said at the White House next week. But for a region that sometimes seems to be in slow-motion collapse, it’s a building block for a better future.”
David Ignatius, Washington Post

“Saudi Arabia is without a doubt the ultimate prize in Israel’s decades-long quest for recognition from the Arab states around it. With vast oil reserves and revered Islamic pilgrimage sites, the kingdom is the most influential state in the Arab world. Its warming ties with Israel are also a uniquely grave blow to Palestinians in their struggle with Israel. Over the last 75 years, Saudi Arabia has been the most important advocate among the Arab states for Palestinians, said Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a former adviser to Palestinian leaders…

“‘If the Saudis go to normalization without anything meaningful for the Palestinians, then we can safely assume that there will be no incentive for Israel to move toward [Palestinian] statehood or end its occupation,’ Mr. Elgindy said. ‘There will be no more leverage. Everybody else will normalize.’”
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times

Others, however, argue that “History and common sense both show that Arab states that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel play a more active role in supporting Palestinian aspirations than those who do not…

“Egypt and Israel have worked closely together quietly to keep a truce between Israel and Gaza going for the past year and a half. Jordan has, in the past, partnered with the United States to shape Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic discussions. Most recently, a warning by Jordan’s King Abdullah II against Israel annexing portions of the West Bank played an important role in taking that option off the table. Israel had something to lose with Jordan and did not want to incur the risk… Conversely, there is little evidence that blocking ties between the Arab world and Israel would succeed in obtaining Israeli concessions.”
David Makovsky and Daniel B. Shapiro, Washington Post

From the Right

The right celebrates the deal as a foreign policy success for the Trump administration.

The right celebrates the deal as a foreign policy success for the Trump administration.

“By pulling back from direct military engagement in the Middle East while he promoted hardline opposition to Iran, Donald Trump has forced all Arab-Muslim states in the region to choose between appeasing the mullahs [in Iran] or making a common front against them. The Bahrain and UAE agreements with Israel show that they are choosing the latter option. It was Trump’s White House, not the State Department, behind those deals…

“[This is an] important step in assembling a Washington-led coalition against a major strategic threat. It parallels Trump’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, where he is assembling a coalition against an even bigger enemy [China], reinforced by economic sanctions and military deterrence. These coalitions, Trump’s reluctance to put American troops in harm’s way, and his public denunciation of Nato partners for free riding on the common defense represent the biggest changes in American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.”
Charles Lipson, Spectator USA

“It is in the self-interest of Israel’s other neighbors to end their confrontation with the Jewish state and finally accept that it is here to stay and can provide tremendous opportunities in trade and cooperation in a broad range of issues of regional importance…

“Thankfully, the UAE, Bahrain — and hopefully more nations in the future — have come to realize that it makes no sense to allow rejectionist Palestinian leadership to hold regional peace hostage to their unreasonable demands and refusal to acknowledge that both sides need to make concessions to achieve peace. President Trump and Kushner deserve the credit for getting the ball rolling to at long last accelerate the movement toward peace between Israel and its neighbors.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News

These agreements fly in the face of a decades-long diplomatic consensus that Israel could only be welcomed in its neighborhood if it conceded to Palestinian demands. Yet Israel is winning recognition not because of political concessions but because of its regional economic and military strength. The U.A.E. insisted Israel forswear annexation of the Palestinian territories, but the main draw of normalization is economic development and shared opposition to Iranian imperialism…

“The Biden campaign has opposed almost all of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy but to its credit has not opposed the recent moves toward normalization. One question, though, is whether it has learned the main lesson from them: That peace is created by power and persistence, not simply diplomacy and lofty ideals.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“It is no small feat to convince Arab Muslim nations to normalize ties with Israel, let alone get them to mandate kosher foods in an Arab capital. Yet Trump’s accomplishments also include convincing Muslim-majority Kosovo to open an embassy in Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s historic capital as the capital of a modern Jewish state. President Barack Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize for his ‘extraordinary efforts to strengthen diplomacy and cooperation between people.’ President Donald Trump should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his extraordinary results at establishing historic diplomacy in the Middle East.”
Tyler O’Neil, PJ Media

“Israeli technology combined with UAE financial clout is likely to carve new routes through the Middle East’s old blockades. The routes will run in both directions: the UAE benefiting from Israel’s world-class tech, and Israel gaining access to the UAE’s expertise not only in banking and finance but also in nuclear and other clean energy…

“Trump, assisted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, senior adviser Jared Kushner and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien, has fundamentally reworked the alliances and conflicts of the Middle East in less than four years… That core group of negotiators — led primarily by Kushner, dismissed a few years ago by Washington ‘old hands’ as in over his head — has engineered an enormous reset in the region, one that will be counted as a milestone along with the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the Jordan-Israel peace treaty of 1994.”
Hugh Hewitt, Washington Post

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