(August 13, 2020 / JNS) For years, statesmen and diplomats from around the world have claimed that it is impossible for Israel to reach a peace agreement with any Arab state without first signing a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. They said Israel would have to give up land beyond the Green Line, evacuating settlements, splitting Jerusalem and establishing a Palestinian state.
The thought of Israel signing a peace agreement with any Arab country—let alone one of the most influential ones in the Middle East—was considered crazy up until a few years ago. This historic day, with the announcement of normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, has proven that this old concept is not valid and never was.
Anyone following Israel’s relations with Arab countries might have noticed a pattern. Israel first establishes secret security coordination with Arab countries. Given Israel’s vibrant start-up and high-tech community, those security relations quickly spill over into technologies in the defense space and then into secret business ties. I am sure that this agreement will lead other Arab countries that have established connections with Israel to consider following the United Arab Emirates’ steps. This includes Chad, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and more.
The UAE has broken the glass ceiling and the fear of recognizing Israel publicly. The two countries have much to learn from and share with each other. Israel can offer the Emiratis technology and R&D, as well as future access to Mediterranean ports, thereby bypassing the needs to send oil tankers through the Straights of Hormuz. In return, the UAE has capital, vision and influence to help Israel both economically and diplomatically. This agreement will change the face of the Middle East, or as longtime former Israeli diplomat Shimon Peres used to say, “a new Middle East.”
To the “peace activists” in Israel and abroad, I am sure you have been working hard to convince governments from around the world that Israel is not serious about peace and is preventing chances for future peace with its communities in the West Bank. This announcement shows that Israel has never stopped and will never stop the pursuit of peace. I hope the peace activists join all Israelis and Emiratis in celebrating this milestone. After all, this is what they were fighting for, too.
As a final thought, I look to the three countries Israel has secured peace with: Egypt (1979), Jordan (1994) and the United Arab Emirates (2020). Interestingly enough, two out of the three Israeli prime ministers who have reached a peace agreement with these countries are from the Likud and are right-wing, Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu. It is even more striking that out of the three agreements, only one of them included giving up land for peace, and that was Begin giving the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians. It is worth mentioning that Ariel Sharon, another right-wing premier from Likud, disengaged from Gaza to gain peace, though that effort failed. Looking at these examples, it seems that right-wing governments in Israel have been more successful in reaching peace agreements with Arab countries than the left.
I hope that this agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is the first domino to fall, and that other potential Arab countries will see the benefit of establishing relations with the Jewish state. This will hopefully bring true peace and stability to the Middle East, and transform the region from an area of fighting and war to one of ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and building bridges between people and cultures so that our generation can reach a new peak.
Benjamin Weil is director of the Project for Israel’s National Security for the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C. He formerly served as the international adviser to Yuval Steinitz, a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet.
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