A Brave New Middle East? Top Experts Delve Into Israel-UAE-Bahrain Accords

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From Haaretz.com's Opinion editor, Esther Solomon:

A “Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization”: Neither the Trump administration, Netanyahu nor the Emiratis wanted to leave any doubt that the U.S.-brokered agreement, launched under the Biblical “Abraham Accords” brand was, indeed, a peace deal.

But that’s not what happened.

The first signed agreement between Israel and an Arab state in a quarter of a century had a controversial reception, and many asked if there was any legitimacy from history or logic to frame this as a peace deal at all, bearing in mind neither the UAE nor Bahrain had even been founded by the time Israel and the Arab world had fought their most iconic wars.

Others suggested it could be co-branded the anti-Iran Axis, or that it resembled an arms deal as much as a peace deal.

Celebrants argued that even in our contemporary reality, there should be time and space for setting aside at least some cynicism and recognize a momentous occasion for the Middle East when it hits you in the face.

And despite the evident good humor of the White House crowd Tuesday, there was an elephant on the South Lawn: the absence both in body and spirit of the Palestinians.

Again, this triggered fierce debate: Was Israel really being rewarded for renouncing (however temporarily) West Bank annexation, while being given a free pass to further entrench the occupation? How is peace with parties other than the Palestinians anything other than a distraction, spin and/or the public execution of both the two-state solution and wider notions of Arab solidarity?

Opposing voices answer: The Palestinians seeded their own irrelevance to a different, emerging Middle East, by their rejectionism and violence. For some, when rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza struck southern Israel during the ceremony itself, their argument was being made in real time.

The week-long ceremonials, from a festive flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, to the White House signing, were also inescapably designed as reelection fodder for Donald Trump, not least to pin down his enduring Evangelical base. Its timing and intentionality was discomforting for many U.S. Jews who would have been instinctive fans of most moves to better secure Israel’s future.

And despite the sunny, mostly mask-free atmosphere at the White House, the miasmic cloud of COVID-19 lies above all of these events.

Gulf leaders don’t need to worry about their electability, but as America and Israel top the global infection rate leagues, will their electorates prioritize matters of life-and-death over the largely intangible birth of a brave new Middle East?

We selected ten cogent and insider experts to parse this old/new reality. Their insights are essential reading:

Tony Blair | Israel, UAE and Bahrain: Celebrate a momentous diplomatic breakthrough for the Middle East

The friendship on display at the ceremony was extraordinary. Normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab states, a warm peace, should be a stimulus, not an impediment, to progress on the Palestinian front. Read full story >

Diana Buttu | Trump and Netanyahu's big fat fake peace deal

As a reward for destroying the lives of generations of Palestinians, Israel made 'peace' with two Arab states, UAE and Bahrain, whose combined populations are smaller than the Gaza Strip. Read full story >

Amb. Daniel B. Shapiro | Trump is hoping for a Mideast 'peace bounce.' He won't get it

When they go to the polls, most Americans won’t be thinking about a diminished Arab-Israeli conflict. They’ll be thinking about 200,000 dead, economic crisis and racial injustice. Read full story >

Dahlia Scheindlin | Netanyahu can't count on the Gulf peace deals for political salvation

In Israel, peace is popular – but it barely moves the polls. Not least when a pandemic is raging. Read full story >

Aaron David Miller | Good news for the Gulf, bad tidings for Palestinians

Israel's normalization of relations with the UAE and Bahrain is transactional, not transformative. The breakdown of the Arab consensus on Palestine is the really historic change - and it doesn't bode well for the Palestinians. Read full story >

Hussein Ibish | Normalization with Saudi Arabia will be a lot more complicated, and risky

Saudi Arabia would be taking far greater risks than the UAE and Bahrain in establishing relations with Israel. It's up to Israel and the United States to reassure and incentivize Riyadh. Read full story >

Chuck Freilich | Trump just outed the anti-Iran axis

Today, Tehran is very unhappy. But the Israel-Gulf accords can’t hide a dangerous policy failure on Iran, failing to contain its nuclear and conventional weapons programs, by both Trump and Netanyahu. Read full story >

Jonathan S. Tobin | Arab states are tired of Palestinian fantasies, Israel is tired of their violence

The UAE and Bahrain accords have exploded the myth that the Palestinians are the core problem of the Middle East. Gulf states will no longer accept a veto from Ramallah or Gaza for their relations with Israel and defense against Iran. Read full story >

Debra Shushan | American Jews know Israel’s only real peace deal must be with the Palestinians

U.S. Jews see through the Trump-Netanyahu ‘peace deal’ spin: Israel’s only existential conflict is with the Palestinians, and it is with them that Israel must make peace. Read full story >

Shira Efron | The real reason Gulf states are normalizing relations with Israel right now

Israel and Gulf states have engaged in discreet cooperation for years, on issues from Iran to Islamist radicalism. What has changed is not only the tempting prospect of arms deals with the U.S. Read full story >

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