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American Jews Know Israel’s Only Real Peace Deal Is With the Palestinians

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump after signing the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House. Sept. 15, 2020
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump after signing the Abraham Accords on the South Lawn of the White House. September 15, 2020.Credit: TOM BRENNER/ REUTERS

For many Jewish Americans, the sight of Israeli and Arab officials gathering on the White House lawn to sign an agreement is an emotional one. So many of us, myself included, long to see Israel welcomed by the Arab world as a legitimate and vital part of the Middle East. 

While the normalization of Israeli relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain is a positive development in this regard, this is not about peace, as Trump and Netanyahu would have us believe.

It’s not simply the fact that Israel was never at war with the UAE and Bahrain. (Indeed, these Gulf sheikhdoms did not exist as independent countries until 1971, after Israel’s foundational wars.) And it’s not just the possible quid pro quo U.S. sales of F-35s to the UAE, which doesn’t scream "peace."

This article is part of a series: Ten experts break down the Israel-UAE-Bahrain accords. Read them all here

Israel’s only existential conflict is with the Palestinians, and it is with them that Israel must make peace, by agreeing to an independent, viable Palestinian state. Should Israel have less incentive to do that, amid a perception that the Arab world has forsaken the Palestinians, it will be to Israel’s detriment.  

Ending the 53-year occupation that deprives the Palestinians of freedom, while corroding Israel’s moral fiber and critically endangering its democracy, is an existential Israeli interest. It is also the fervent desire of many Jewish Americans who care passionately about Israel.

As for Israel’s acceptance in the region, Arab leaders may pursue their own interests with Israel absent resolution of the Palestinian issue, but most of their citizens are unlikely to do so until Palestinians are free.

Debra Shushan is Director of Government Affairs at J Street. Twitter: @DrShushan

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