Score one for President Donald J. Trump.
The historic agreement by the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations with Israel is, as Joe Biden said in a different context, a Big f’n deal. It is the first Israeli/Arab diplomatic handshake since Jordan recognized Israel in 1994, following Egypt in 1979, which was the first breakthrough, and that one was massive. (I covered Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s peace mission to Israel, but that’s another story.)
“It could reorder the long stalemate in the region, potentially leading other Arab nations to follow suit in forging an increasingly explicit alliance with Israel against their mutual enemy in Iran while taking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s explosive annexation plan off the table, at least for now,” reported The New York Times.
Speaking of the Times, columnist Thomas Friedman, a reliable Trump and Bibi basher, called the deal “huge.”
His praise is almost unprecedented.
Like Israel, the UAE is advanced, pro-West and anti-Iran, and is acting like a mature adult. Its motive was to cease Israel’s suicidal plan to annex part of what is considered to be “Palestinian land.”
In announcing the new relationship, Netanyahu said he was “suspending” annexation plans, but he was not cancelling them.
The Palestinians immediately cried foul, saying no one has the right to negotiate for them. The UAE wasn’t, but the deal does help the Palestinians, by suspending annexation. The Palestinians have a decades-long history of saying no, no, no, to peace offers. They have no’d themselves into irrelevance.
As recently as January, the Palestinians rejected a peace proposal from Trump. Unlike previous administrations, Trump just ignores Palestinian protestations, and the UAE move is further evidence that Arabs are tired of the Palestinian millstone around their neck.
Over the years, the Palestinians have rejected numerous peace offers. Their techinque is to examine the offer, reject it, and wait for the other side to come back with a sweeter one. That’s what has happened until Trump. His January offer was less than previous plans and the implication to the Palestinians is that the next one will be even worse. As when he moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, Bibi’s friend Trump told the Palestinians and the larger Arab world, he will act in what he perceives to be the best interests of U.S. and Israel. He might be wrong, but he checked off another campaign promise.
Here’s why what just happened is important.
The current stuck-in-the-mud peace plan calls for two states — one Israeli and one Arab — living peacefully side by side. That is called the Two State Solution. There are at least two problems. 1- Neither side trusts the other. 2- The Palestinians have a leadership divided by the Palestinian Authority, which controls most of the land and Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, and controls the small Gaza Strip which fires rockets into Israel. Palestinians do not have one voice.
Israel has long built towns, called settlements, on the land that someday will be in a Palestinian state. That is trouble enough, but Netanyahu then began talking about annexation.
That would mean that what is now called the West Bank (actually Judea and Samaria) would be absorbed into Israel.
Inside Israel today, all citizens can vote — Jews, Christian, Moslems, Druze, etc.
Palestinians are outside of Israel. They can’t vote, or hold office, because they are not citizens of Israel. That is why the “apartheid” charge against Israel is a lie. Palestinians have no right to vote not because they are Arabs, but because they do not live within Israel.
Annexation would change that equation.
If the West Bank were to be annexed, Israel would face a Hobson’s choice: Deny Palestinians who live in Israel the right to vote and actually become an apartheid state, or allow them to vote. If allowed to vote, the Arabs’ much higher birth rate would soon make them a majority which would allow them to vote to abolish the Jewish state.
The UAE seems to recognize that insanity and made their gesture — written in Hebrew, as a courtesy — to stop the annexation.
This diplomacy opens the door, and provides cover for other Arab regimes to follow the UAE’s lead, which could lead to a major realignment in the Middle East. (It’s an open secret that some Mideast states, like Saudi Arabia, swap military information and intelligence with Israel.)
So the UAE agreement is a win for the UAE, and Israel, and Trump, and could lead to a more stable Mideast.
That is why it is so important even journalist Friedman had to praiseTrump.