A historic peace accord involving Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain took place Sept. 14 on the sun-splashed south lawn of the White House, and the objective was to normalize relations between these three countries. Yet there is something absent from what President Donald Trump referred to as “historic” regarding the agreement.
The idea of a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Arab nations is nothing new, and previous U.S. administrations have assisted in brokering peace accords in the 1990s. During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, a peace conference was hosted by Spain in Madrid, and co-sponsored by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., with the objective of revitalizing the Israel-Palestinian peace process.
Then-Secretary of State James Baker had spoken of Israeli expansionist policies, and by the conclusion of the 1991 Madrid Summit, some felt there was hope that reconciliation among the participating nations would result in a lasting peace.
These 1991 Israeli-Palestinian talks did lead to another historic agreement in 1993, wherein President Bill Clinton oversaw the signing of the Oslo-Accords, and the PLO agreed to recognize the state of Israel. This agreement promised the Palestinians a degree of limited self-government in territories Israel had captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Tragically, this historic pact was upended in 1994 when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by an assassin, and by 2000, the Intifada had begun, as fighting erupted between Palestinians defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel security forces guarding then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This bloodshed unfolded against a background of discontent because the Palestinians resented the fact that the two superpowers that brokered the agreement did not support them.
Trump has said of the recent pacts that, “We are here to change the course of history,” yet what is missing from the current agreement is that recent agreements do not address decades of bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
It is no surprise, therefore, that there is much skepticism regarding the bilateral agreement signed by Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, and the Palestinian militants who fired two rockets into Israel, on the same day the signing ceremony occurred. Evidently, these “Abraham Accords” deviated from the norm of previous formal treaties, and that includes generalized statements regarding the advancement of diplomacy, mutual cooperation, and regional peace.
Trump is very much aligned with Bahrain and the UAE in a common front against Iran, and includes the establishment of an alliance between Israel and Sunni Arab monarchs against Shiite Iran.
Remember, Trump’s key foreign policy goal in the region has been the pressuring of Iran, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton was consumed by the idea of a regime change in Iran. In the final analysis, though, the recent Trump-brokered pact, in which he made comments regarding the “historical significance,” really does pale in comparison to the Clinton-brokered agreement of 1993, because the UAE and Bahrain are not at war with Israel. The central question that must be asked is, what is at the heart of this particular agreement?
Conflict resolution seems to be the central tenet that is missing, and this agreement resembles more of a business/financial agreement. Israel and the two Arab neighboring nations in the Persian Gulf do have aligned interests, yet Trump is overplaying a pact that doesn’t address a decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ultimately, the key element that resulted in the pact is Iran.
Brent Been is an educator with an emphasis on civics and history.