The drafters of Israel’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain faced a very difficult task. Racing against the clock, in coordination with the Americans, in the space of less than a week, they had to draft three separate documents – the Abraham Accords Declaration, the peace treaty with the UAE and the declaration of peace with Bahrain – that would say absolutely nothing.
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It’s complicated enough for two parties to draft peace agreements, let alone four. Consequently, the supreme goal when drafting such documents in such a short time is to avoid saying anything that would prompt debate or reservations from any of the parties.
Another goal, behind the scenes, was for these agreements to serve as a kind of permanent template for other countries if and when they join the move to normalize relations with Israel. Given the lack of detail, this wording can be copied as is again and again.
The end result was a bunch of statements in support of global peace of the type normally made by winners of the Miss Universe pageant – which was once presided over by the same man who presided over these peace initiatives, U.S. President Donald Trump.
First, all the parties signed the Abraham Accords Declaration. This document isn’t an official peace treaty, but a general, symbolic statement of intentions that described the ceremony in Washington.
“We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining and strengthening peace in the Middle East and around the world based on mutual understanding and coexistence, as well as respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom,” the anemic declaration began. Even beauty queens have learned how to inject more content into their statements than that.
The signatories then pledged to promote inter-religious dialogue, cooperation and tolerance and support “science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind, maximize human potential and bring nations closer together.” Indeed, the only statement with practical significance was the commitment to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
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The Declaration of Peace signed with Bahrain was also intentionally light on content, since Bahrain joined the White House ceremony at the last minute. It uses the word “peace” nine times (and the word “Trump” four). There’s also a vague statement about “recognizing each State’s right to sovereignty” and an equally vague statement in support of “continuing the efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” That’s a statement more pareve than the desserts served at the leaders’ luncheon following the ceremony – and not by accident.
The treaty with the UAE, a genuine treaty for which there was a little more time to draft, is somewhat more fleshed out, but not much. A general expression of support for peace, stability and security in the Middle East, then another promise of religious coexistence.
The parties also committed to “continuing their efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (the word “realistic” doesn’t appear in the Bahrain document). It mentions Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and commits the parties “to working together to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both people.”
After these general statements, there’s a slightly more detailed annex about the civilian cooperation already agreed on in bilateral talks between the parties, such as direct flights. This information was being gathered until the last minute from the various government ministries involved in talks with the UAE since the normalization was announced.
So what do these documents contain? Establishing diplomatic relations, including opening embassies; civilian cooperation; and a lot of statements about interreligious conflict and mutual recognition of each state’s sovereignty. And what is missing? Explicit recognition of Israel as a Jewish state on one hand, and explicit mention of the two-state solution on the other.
Nevertheless, it’s worth paying attention to a clause in the treaty with the UAE that explicitly requires the parties to be “guided in their relations by the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the principle of international law governing relations among States,” and to several other provisions that mention international law and the charter. This is standard in treaties of this sort, which are typically submitted to the UN secretary-general. But as everyone knows, these provisions create some problems for Israel with regard to its occupation of the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the marriage broker responsible for these Washington weddings – Iran – is observing from the sidelines. Without Iran’s imperialistic ambitions, the parties would never have gotten together. In an unsubtle barb at the Abraham Accords, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday, “The children of Adam, Abraham and Moses are siblings who deserve to live in a real democratic peace — not business deal.”
As Tehran observes the alliance being formed against it by Israel and the Gulf states, it is waiting patiently for the upcoming U.S. election. With even Trump acknowledging that the goal is a new agreement with Iran, the only question is what kind of deal it will be.
In this sense, the ceremony in Washington wasn’t merely born thanks to Iran, but was also meant to make clear that Tehran will still be facing a determined official opposition even if the occupant of the White House changes. And America, as a party to these documents, will be committed to this alliance regardless of who its president is.