Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’s barbaric, abhorrent terrorist attack on Israel, marked a watershed moment for the Middle East, with far-reaching consequences. In the short term, Israel—which must be backed to the fullest extent—will rightly do everything it can to destroy Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
In the long term, however, a permanent and peaceful solution to the question of Gaza is required. There is scarcely any discussion of this at this moment, so I wish to initiate one and issue a reminder of the overdue need for the German government to take part in a strategy of peace for the Middle East, including in the Gulf region.
The destruction of Hamas will be a significant step towards peace in the Middle East. If nothing else because it would remove a considerable threat to the State of Israel. There can only be a lasting peace if all regional actors acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
On its own, however, the destruction of Hamas will not be enough. Only a sustainable plan for Gaza will forge lasting peaceful coexistence. Along with Israel, the Arab states have a crucial role to play in this. They also have an interest in regional stability and peace. Before Oct. 7, there had already been promising conversations and normalization of relations between Israel and large parts of the Arab world, most recently between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both Israel and the Arab states are united in the concern that Iran could spark a conflagration in the Middle East through its support of various terrorist groups and its nuclear ambitions.
With the signing of the Abraham Accords, Arab states including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognized the Jewish State of Israel and established diplomatic relations. As a result, Arab school textbooks are being updated to remove hatred of Jews and Israel; trade is booming; and new waves of tourism in the region ensure exchanges take place on a wider societal level.
Part of Hamas’s insidious plan was to destroy this promising rapprochement. That cannot be allowed to happen. The Arab states must be part of the solution. They play a key role and should rise to the occasion. Statements from representatives of some Arab states have already underlined this point: There is scarcely a state in the region with an interest in supporting terrorism. Quite the opposite is true. We in Germany and the European Union in general should support them in their attempt to transcend the region’s history of violence.
Therefore, the Middle East requires an “Abraham Plan” for post-war Gaza. It should be developed and enacted by Israel and the Arab states working together. After World War II, we Europeans—and especially, we Germans—experienced just how important moral and material support from benevolent international partners can be. We learned that it is essential to forging a path towards political stability and prosperity. In regard to the Middle East, this task should be taken up by the United States, Europe and the international community.
One of the key questions that needs to be addressed by all parties to an “Abraham Plan” is the governance of Gaza. It is indisputable that a new approach is necessary. We must ask: How can recognition of Israel’s right to exist be secured? Who can act as the stabilizing power in Gaza? Is a joint administration possible, comprised of Israel and certain Arab states working together? How can essential supplies be secured for Palestinians? How can a dignified existence be made possible for civilians and refugees in Gaza? How can an educational system be established that does not spread hatred and incitement, but instead promotes peaceful coexistence? How can economically and socially sustainable structures be built? How can it be ensured that all parties involved are operating within the framework of international law? Last but not least, following the watershed of Oct. 7, what are the prospects for a two-state solution?
An “Abraham Plan” that answers these questions would not only be a blessing for the Middle East but also serve the interests of Germany and Europe. First, because the security of the State of Israel is part of modern Germany’s raison d’être. Second, because of the need for secure trade routes for the German and European economies, immigration matters and secure energy supplies.
We must formulate our policy goals in the Middle East in the areas of energy, economy, security, migration and development in clear terms. Regarding the Arab states, German foreign policy must change because the current lack of a comprehensive strategic plan risks damage to Germany’s influence. Nobody benefits if the Arab states in the Gulf region turn away from us and towards China or Russia.
The fact that China recently undertook efforts to mediate a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran should be setting off alarm bells. If the West is not careful, China could establish a permanent influence in the region. An “Abraham Plan” for the Gaza Strip would give the West an opportunity to strengthen its foothold in the Middle East.
We should seize this opportunity and forge a coalition of the willing in which Germany and the E.U. will work together with Israel and the Arab states to forge a new reality in the region.