Of course, there will always be anti-Trumpers so thoroughly conditioned as to refuse to admit that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
There will always be anti-Zionists for whom the best agreement in the world, if it involves Israel, is null, void, and detestable.
There are the false friends of Palestine fulminating about treason and abandonment at the hands of their champions.
There are Israelis worried about the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi under the agreement, because it calls into question their military superiority over their neighbors.
And there is the danger that all of these forces may end up coming together at the last minute to scuttle the deal.
Which would be very unfortunate.
Because the agreement with the United Arab Emirates, announced August 17 in Washington and due to be ratified in the coming weeks, was one of the major events of the summer. I believe, in soul and conscience, that it is a good thing for all parties—and for Israel in particular. And this for five reasons.
First, I do not know the Emirates well. But I do know that their president is one of the few in the region to put himself on the right side of the barricades in most of the hotspots where the battle for peace is being waged. Tolerance at home… Construction of an Abrahamic Family House in which a church, a synagogue, and a mosque will soon be neighbors… Decisive contributions, in the West as well as the Middle East, to the struggle against Salafism, Jihadism, and the Muslim Brotherhood… And the Abu Dhabi Louvre, conceived at a time when ISIS was pulverizing the treasures of Palmyra as a ringing response to the radical iconoclasm at the heart of radical Islam. Who, in the region, has been more eloquent? And who was more inclined than he to making peace, real peace, a peace of hearts and minds, with the only democracy in the Middle East?
Second, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain protested, but to no avail. Though a spokesperson in Khartoum was sacked after telling Sky News that his country would soon take the same path, all serious observers realize that, if the Israel – UAE agreement goes through, the domino effect will just be a matter of time. And all of the architects of the accord—Israeli (Mossad chief Yossi Cohen), Emirati (Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed), and American (philanthropist Tom Kaplan, MBZ’s friend and confidant)—pray that Abu Dhabi is once again showing the way. So, again, what is there not to be happy about? How can one turn up one’s nose at a process that has already led the very powerful Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency who is often considered the official voice of the royal family, to publish on Al Arabiya’s English-language website, an article dated August 21 that, while rehashing the outlines of the Saudis’ 2002 plan, ridicules the alliance that has been so hastily assembled by the Turks, Iranians, and Qataris to reject the Emiratis’ initiative?
Third, Israel’s 1979 accord with Egypt and its 1994 treaty with Jordan had a decisive military impact, sheltering the Jewish state from a possible all-fronts attack by a coalition of Arab armies. But this new agreement, though it may appear more prosaic for being centered on opening air links, intensifying economic exchanges, cooperating to host a world fair, and making development plans (in short, for Montesquieu’s spirit of “gentle trade”), will have a symbolic effect that is just as great, paradoxical as that may seem. For, if the logic of the agreement takes hold and spreads, will not Israel’s image be radically transformed? Will we not be moving from the odious image of an illegitimate state, a cancer on the Middle East, to the contrary image, held by Shimon Peres, of a nation of pioneers, dreamers, and engineers contributing to the wealth of its neighbors?
Fourth, for decades, there reigned in most European foreign offices a postulate that the creation of Israel was the root of all of the region’s ills, and that no settlement was conceivable unless it proceeded from a deal with the Palestinians, the game masters, who were tacitly invited by the international community to chime in at every stage of the bidding. Well, this new bilateral accord, reached in secret in two or three embassies, in good Machiavellian form, followed the opposite pattern. In so doing, it may have pulled off the most difficult and most rare feat in geopolitics: a paradigm change. Yes, we are moving toward peace. Yes, the Palestinian people, if you read the text and note Israel’s obligation to freeze settlements on the West Bank, are being offered a historic new opportunity to advance their national cause. But, for the first time, this is being done without allowing the Palestinian leadership to apply all known forms of blackmail and thus to block everything from the get-go.
Finally, as for the F-35s and the risk of an Arab state gaining access to a weapon that may end up in the hands of who-knows-who, I consider that risk to be real. But although I am no military expert, it seems to me that the most fearsome property of these fighters is their stealth, and that Israel already possesses systems capable of detecting them. I, like the rest of the world, also know that when one ponders side by side the artisanal but horribly effective rockets used by Hamas, the hacking abilities of Hezbollah (who were able, a month ago, to gain control of a drone operated by the Israell Defense Forces), and the planned delivery to Turkey, halted at the last minute, of F-35s of the same model, the question of Israel’s military superiority is one widely encountered and hardly confined to this agreement. Is it really reasonable, then, to fall back on that logic and its rampant uncertainties?
And, to repeat myself, isn’t peace, true peace, the surest route to the most enduring security that one could wish for Jerusalem? That’s my bet.