The Middle East Peace Process has for decades seen peace in that region depend on negotiations between Israel and the Arabs who live in the rest of what used to be the British Mandate. The Obama-Biden administration deviated from that view by choosing not only to promote the claims of the Palestinian Arabs, but also by helping Iran become an important player in the region. And lo and behold! Now we have peace busting out all over the place between Israel and the Arab countries.
Is this work of Obama and Biden? Yes, in a way. Can they take credit for it? Not even a little bit.
The peace being achieved now with encouragement of the Trump administration is here because the Arab world realizes just how irrational and dangerous the Obama-Biden policies were. That threat has created an unprecedented degree of unity among the Arabs and between the Arabs and the Jewish state, all in an agreed regional effort to prevent Obama’s and Biden’s policy goals from becoming a reality.
To see why this is so, one need only step back to 2009. It was then, shortly after Barack Obama and Joe Biden took office that they began working—secretly, for the first several years—towards the goal of enabling the Islamic “Republic” of Iran to become a power of the first rank in the Middle East. To achieve that goal, Obama and Biden negotiated what they held out as a deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which we were told barred Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.
The JCPOA’s public opponents—chief among whom was Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu—claimed that it was really the exact opposite of what it was held out to be; they said the brief duration of the JCPOA’s restrictions on Iran actually granted Iran an official license to acquire such weapons upon expiration of the prescribed waiting period.
And that ignores the JCPOA’s restrictions on which parts of the Iranian nuclear complex could be inspected in what was supposed to be an effort to ensure that Iran was complying with the limitations imposed during the waiting period. Those limitations, Netanyahu pointed out, meant that in reality the JCPOA gave Iran a de facto license to do whatever it wanted even during the waiting period because the world had nothing to ensure Iran’s compliance other than Iran’s claims that it would comply. Trust, but no need to verify, was the motto of the Obama administration, at least when it came to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But never mind what Bibi thought and never mind the view of anyone in the Trump administration or indeed of any Republicans. What did the Arabs think? For remember, the Iranians are not Arabs at all. They are Muslims, but they are Persians, not Arabs, which is very different in a part of the world where family, clan, tribe and race are the most important determinants of whom you can trust and whom you must fear.
We need not linger over the question of what the Arabs think about whether Iran is a threat. We know for a certainty what they thought (and think) because we can see what they do.
And what the Arab countries have done since the JCPOA took effect in 2015, and what they are doing now, is exactly the opposite of what Obama and Biden wanted them to do. Team Obama-Biden, it’s no secret, wanted to isolate Israel from its neighbors. They publicly and repeatedly warned that if the Israelis did not submit to the agreements and restrictions they demanded from the Jewish state, Israel would be alone in the world, and in particular, without American support. Obama and Biden’s parting shot to Israel—the U.S. refusal to veto U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334—was their way of making that as clear as they could. So Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, voted to abstain.
And now look: The Islamic Republic of Iran is still trying to obtain nuclear weapons. Israel is still trying to stop that from happening, and the Arab world is, what? The Arab world is joining hands with Israel to help keep Iran from becoming an even more dangerous threat to the world. Israel, isolated? Not at all! Israel has more friends in the region today than it has had since King Hiram of Lebanon sold building materials for King David’s Jerusalem palace.
These countries know what Obama and Biden pretended not to know: that the Islamic Republic of Iran, and its aspirations to power over other countries and peoples, are the largest, perhaps even the only, genuine impediment to regional peace. These Arab countries all likely believe that Israel has nuclear weapons. But they also know that Israel has had such weapons for decades and has never threatened to use them, and so the Arabs do not fear Israel as a threat to their own borders or freedoms.
And every threat they know the Jewish state does not pose, they know the Islamic Republic of Iran does pose. Is Israel paying and arming militias to threaten the stability of its Arab neighbors? No. Is Iran doing so? Just ask the Saudis. Is Israel promoting the slaughter of anyone still breathing in Syria? No. Are the Iranians? Just ask the White Hats. Is Israel trying to take over Lebanon? Obviously, not. Iran? Just ask the many victims of the Hezbollah-dominated government in the broken shards of what’s left of that tragic and decimated land.
Would the JCPOA, which European countries are still keeping on life support, have kept Iran from obtaining nukes? Can Iran be trusted with nuclear weapons? Absolutely, positively not. The Arab countries are united in ensuring that Iran does not become the regional power that Obama sought to make it. In that effort, the Arabs have joined hands with the Jews.
That’s where the new Middle East peace is coming from. Thank you, President Obama.
Jerome M. Marcus is a lawyer and a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.