The Abraham Accords: A Peace Deal in Name Only

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President Trump’s acclaimed ‘peace deal’ in the Middle East may be historic, but only time will tell if it will bring any semblance of peace to the region. On Tuesday, September 15, President Trump sat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani, and Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to sign what became known as the Abraham Accords, a normalization of relations between the three countries, which will include the establishment of embassies, commercial air routes, tourism, security and intelligence sharing, and access to Israel’s formidable technological prowess.[i] Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) join Egypt and Jordan as the only countries in the region to date who claim formal ties with Israel, as most Arab states refuse to recognize Israel until the country addresses its outstanding issues with Palestine.[ii] While the Abraham Accords are not without their merits, they are also not what many see them to be: a peace deal in the Middle East.

First and foremost, the Abraham Accords are not a peace deal because neither Israel and Bahrain, nor Israel and the U.A.E, have been at war with one another.[iii] Second, while many are touting the benefits of strengthened relations between Israel, Bahrain, and the U.A.E., the Abraham Accords alienate other countries in the region, and will likely create unforeseen and unintended consequences.

Regional Implications

The Accords blatantly single out Palestine, which previously had the backing of other Gulf states against Israel.[iv] The Palestinian leaders were not informed of the Abraham Accords, and felt betrayed by the U.A.E.[v] In the past, there had been a consensus among the Arab states that peace, and normalization, with Israel would remain contingent upon Israel’s recognition of the formation of an independent Palestinian state.[vi] While Netanyahu had to concede in the Accords that Israel would halt its plan to annex the West Bank,  the deal required only that Israel agree to halt, not abandon, that idea. Indeed, Israel Today, which called the Accords “truly historic, and wonderfully welcome,”[vii] maintained that, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees this as delay, not cancellation.”[viii]  This desire to subvert the spirit of the Accords undercuts the notion that Israel intends to seek peace with Palestine, and lends support to the Palestinians who see the Accords as further encroachment on their rights. In short, the movement of Bahrain and the U.A.E. to formally align themselves with Israel has been seen by many sympathetic to the Palestinian cause as duplicitous and could lead to increased unrest in the area.[ix]

Moreover, the alliance of Gulf states with Israel signals a larger shift in Middle Eastern geopolitics[x] from one centered around the Palestinian/Israeli question, to one focused on Iranian/Arab – specifically Shiite/Sunni – relations.[xi] Such a shift is reflective of the more general trend witnessed over the last decade of the decline in support for the Palestinian state from Gulf country leaders,[xii] and the increased desire of those countries to align themselves with Israel’s burgeoning economic resources and military might.[xiii] While Palestinian independence is still a major factor for many citizens living in the Gulf states and the Middle East writ large, the decision of Bahrain and the U.A.E. to endorse normalization with Israel shows that is it no longer the defining issue of these states’ foreign policies. This shift will undoubtedly complicate the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and could make realizing durable peace considerably more challenging, now that normalization with Israel is no longer contingent upon the recognition of the Palestinians’ rights.[xiv]

Furthermore, one of the principal motivations for the Accords was the mutual distrust of Iran, felt by all countries involved, not the least of which was the U.S. Some believe that the real target of these accords was not Palestine, but rather Iran.[xv] Now that Israel, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. are overtly aligned, Iran’s economic sanctions by the U.S. can be more efficiently enforced, and information between the four countries can be passed more intimately.[xvi] Such an explicit anti-Iran alliance, backed by the U.S., many cause Iran to think twice about projecting future aggressive behavior, but it could just as easily be viewed by Iran as a threat and cause Tehran to act more rashly.[xvii] Some veteran observers of the region postulate that, rather than intimidating Iran, the Abraham Accords could cause Tehran to increase its support to Al Qaeda in order to bring the war directly to Israel and the West.[xviii] Thus it is quite possible that Iran will see this alliance as a threat, which could invariably lead it to retaliate in ways yet unknown to the U.S.[xix]  

The Saudi Response

Adding his voice to the melee of reactions, Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia, a senior Saudi royal and former ambassador to the U.S, chastised Palestinian leaders for their response to the Accords.[xx] Though he reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for the Palestinian cause, the prince stated that the Palestinian leaders had failed their people.[xxi] “The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures,” the prince said in an interview with Al Arabiya. “The Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates are successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years.”[xxii] Prince Bandar argued that Palestinian leaders’ efforts could have been better spent on peace initiatives to protect the rights of the Palestinian people.[xxiii] This interview underscores the changing tides of Palestinian support from Middle Eastern leaders and countries in wake of the Accords.[xxiv]

Peace as a Secondary Objective

Many critics of the Accords suspect ulterior motives from the leaders of the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Israel, as well as the U.S. The positive publicity from the Accords is a welcome relief from the toil of the pandemic and offers a boost to both Netanyahu’s and Trump’s public images. While the deal provides Trump with a feather in his cap before the election,[xxv] it is also a win for Netanyahu, who had been charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.[xxvi] The Accords strengthen American-Israeli relations, as the U.S. played the role of mediator. They also boost President Trump’s continuous efforts in supporting Israel and the Gulf states. The Accords additionally put the U.A.E. and Bahrain – and any other countries who might sign in the future – in good standing with the U.S.[xxvii] Additionally, in conjunction with the Accords, the U.S. plans to sell the U.A.E. advanced tech armaments – including fighter planes and Reaper drones.[xxviii] As MPN, an independent watchdog journalist organization, points out, “It is difficult to see how flooding the world’s most war-torn region with even more advanced weaponry. . . will secure peace.”[xxix]

Possible Benefits

While the Abraham Accords may not be a peace deal in the Middle East, much good may still come out of them.[xxx] Israel, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. now have a strengthened alliance against the aggressions of Iran, viewed by all as an existential threat.[xxxi] All three countries anticipate economic benefits from the increased opportunities of tourism and trade made by the Accords.[xxxii] Additionally, the deal could be the start of a larger alliance,[xxxiii] if other Gulf states decide to sign onto the Accords in the future.[xxxiv] Furthermore, many believe that Bahrain would not have signed the Accords without the expressed consent of Saudi Arabia, signaling the support – albeit surreptitiously – of a major player in the peace processes of the Middle East.[xxxv] Al Jazeera described the Saudi posture as having “quietly acquiesced to the U.A.E. and Bahrain deals – though it has stopped short of endorsing them – and has signaled it is not ready to take action itself.”[xxxvi]

Though the Abraham Accords are not a peace deal, and certainly not the final solution to the Middle East’s issues, their merits should not be casually dismissed. The U.S. must proceed carefully, and closely monitor any repercussions that might transpire due to the new alliance. Ultimately, the U.S. must continue to pursue options to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine in order to have any hope of establishing a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Bibliography

[i]Fred Kaplan, “Trump’s New Middle East Accord Is a Big Deal. It Is Not a Peace Deal,” MSN, September 15, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-s-new-middle-east-accord-is-a-big-deal-it-is-not-a-peace-deal/ar-BB194DdM.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Dan Williams, “Trump envoy hopes Israeli-Arab peace deals will continue whatever the U.S. election result,” Reuters, October 18, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-gulf-usa-interview/trump-envoy-hopes-israeli-arab-peace-deals-will-continue-whatever-the-u-s-election-result-idUSKBN2730U4.

[v] [v] Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet, “Israel-U.A.E. deal shows how the very notion of Middle East peace has shifted under Trump,” The Washington Post, August 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-israel-U.A.E.-middle-east-peace/2020/08/16/e245a358-defc-11ea-8051-d5f887d73381_story.html.

[vi] “The Abraham Accords: The PR of the ‘peace deals,’” The Listening Post, Al Jazeera, September 19, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p75R9MiSMSo.

[vii] Charles Gardner, “War and Peace Further signs of the imminent return of our Lord and Saviour,” Israel Today, September 18, 2020, https://www.israeltoday.co.il/read/war-and-peace-abraham-accords-biblical-prophecy/.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Fred Kaplan, “Trump’s New Middle East Accord Is a Big Deal. It Is Not a Peace Deal,” MSN, September 15, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-s-new-middle-east-accord-is-a-big-deal-it-is-not-a-peace-deal/ar-BB194DdM.

[x] Reuters Staff, “Pompeo urges Saudi Arabia to consider normalizing relations with Israel,” Reuters, October 14, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-israel-idUSKBN26Z23Y.    

[xi] Joseph V. Micallef, “These Are the Winners and Losers from the Abraham Accords,” Military.com, October 7, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/opinions/2020/10/07/these-are-winners-and-losers-abraham-accords.html.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet, “Israel-U.A.E. deal shows how the very notion of Middle East peace has shifted under Trump,” The Washington Post, August 16, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-israel-U.A.E.-middle-east-peace/2020/08/16/e245a358-defc-11ea-8051-d5f887d73381_story.html.

[xiv] Annelle Sheline, “Trump’s Win Is a Loss for the Middle East,” Politico, August 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/08/14/trump-mideast-israel-U.A.E.-deal-395567.

[xv] Fred Kaplan, “Trump’s New Middle East Accord Is a Big Deal. It Is Not a Peace Deal,” MSN, September 15, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-s-new-middle-east-accord-is-a-big-deal-it-is-not-a-peace-deal/ar-BB194DdM.

[xvi] Alan Macleod, “Abraham Accord: Experts Warn Trump Peace Deal a Precursor to War with Iran,” MPN News, October 6, 2020, https://www.mintpressnews.com/abraham-accord-experts-warn-trump-peace-deal-a-precursor-to-war-with-iran/271799/.

[xvii] Fred Kaplan, “Trump’s New Middle East Accord Is a Big Deal. It Is Not a Peace Deal,” MSN, September 15, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-s-new-middle-east-accord-is-a-big-deal-it-is-not-a-peace-deal/ar-BB194DdM.

[xviii] Douglas London, “The Abraham Accords plays into Iran’s hands and opens the door for al-Qaeda,” Atlantic Council, October 16, 2020, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/the-abraham-accords-plays-into-irans-hands-and-opens-the-door-for-al-qaeda/.

[xix] Dan Williams, “Trump envoy hopes Israeli-Arab peace deals will continue whatever the U.S. election result,” Reuters, October 18, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-gulf-usa-interview/trump-envoy-hopes-israeli-arab-peace-deals-will-continue-whatever-the-u-s-election-result-idUSKBN2730U4.

[xx] Tommy Hilton and Omar Elkatouri, “Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan calls out Palestinian leaders over peace deal,” Al Arabiya, October 5, 2020, https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/10/05/Saudi-Arabia-s-Prince-Bandar-bin-Sultan-calls-out-Palestinian-leaders-over-peace-deal.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Reuters Staff, “Pompeo urges Saudi Arabia to consider normalizing relations with Israel,” Reuters, October 14, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-israel-idUSKBN26Z23Y.      

[xxv] “The Abraham Accords: The PR of the ‘peace deals,’” The Listening Post, Al Jazeera, September 19, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p75R9MiSMSo.

[xxvi] Helen Raleigh, “What Corporate Media Won’t Tell You About Trump’s Historic Middle East Peace Deal,” The Federalist, August 19, 2020, https://thefederalist.com/2020/08/19/what-corporate-media-wont-tell-you-about-trumps-historic-middle-east-peace-deal/.

[xxvii] Joseph V. Micallef, “These Are the Winners and Losers from the Abraham Accords,” Military.com, October 7, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/opinions/2020/10/07/these-are-winners-and-losers-abraham-accords.html.

[xxviii] Mike Stone, “Exclusive: U.S. eyes December agreement on F-35 jets with U.A.E. – sources,” Reuters, September 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/israel-emirates-f35-exclusive-int/exclusive-u-s-eyes-december-agreement-on-f-35-jets-with-U.A.E.-sources-idUSKCN26D1AN.

[xxix] Alan Macleod, “Abraham Accord: Experts Warn Trump Peace Deal a Precursor to War with Iran,” MPN News, October 6, 2020, https://www.mintpressnews.com/abraham-accord-experts-warn-trump-peace-deal-a-precursor-to-war-with-iran/271799/.

[xxx] Dan Williams, “Trump envoy hopes Israeli-Arab peace deals will continue whatever the U.S. election result,” Reuters, October 18, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-gulf-usa-interview/trump-envoy-hopes-israeli-arab-peace-deals-will-continue-whatever-the-u-s-election-result-idUSKBN2730U4.

[xxxi] “The Abraham Accords: The PR of the ‘peace deals,’” The Listening Post, Al Jazeera, September 19, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p75R9MiSMSo.

[xxxii] Fred Kaplan, “Trump’s New Middle East Accord Is a Big Deal. It Is Not a Peace Deal,” MSN, September 15, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-s-new-middle-east-accord-is-a-big-deal-it-is-not-a-peace-deal/ar-BB194DdM.

[xxxiii] Reuters Staff, “Pompeo urges Saudi Arabia to consider normalizing relations with Israel,” Reuters, October 14, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-israel-idUSKBN26Z23Y.     

[xxxiv] Fred Kaplan, “Trump’s New Middle East Accord Is a Big Deal. It Is Not a Peace Deal,” MSN, September 15, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-s-new-middle-east-accord-is-a-big-deal-it-is-not-a-peace-deal/ar-BB194DdM.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Al Jazeera, “Pompeo urges Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Israel,” Al Jazeera, October 14, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/14/pompeo-urges-saudi-arabia-to-normalise-ties-with-israel.

One Reply to “The Abraham Accords: A Peace Deal in Name Only”

  1. Oh please from one who spent most of his military and professional career where this author had not. What exactly did Obama get his peace prize for – NOTHING !!!!

    In fact two other nations in the region are about to sign on the deal – but let’s not give Trump credit where others failed or where Obama caused the worst mass migration since WW II. But then, he did tell Russia to wait after the election, didn’t he?

    Tell this author thatr anytime he wants to debate me whom livewd in Arabia for 8.5 years straight before and after 9-11, bring it on. I cannot stand these liberal;s and their fantasies as authopritative references for anything inside or outside a nation that none have ever served.

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