Whether we call it peace or normalization isn’t very important: The agreements being signed today between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with U.S. President Donald Trump’s guarantee, mark a historical transition that not only reflects the great changes underway within Arab societies, but also upends old dynamics and can change the world.
It’s very difficult to recognize the deal for what it is, because Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t enjoy the support of the international press. Moreover, the Palestinians received what was for them a totally surprising refusal from the Arab League to their request to condemn it.
Europe, meanwhile, keeps repeating its old stupid mantras of “illegally occupied territories,” and “two states for two peoples.” It can’t fathom calling the current agreements “peace.”
What, after all, is peace without Palestinians?
Paradoxically, many American Jews and Israelis have joined this very same festival of self-humiliation.
Nevertheless, history is in the making in Washington today, and not only for the Middle East. What we are witnessing is the construction of a bridge between the three monotheistic religions.
Like it or not, Israel, the Jewish state, is finally integrated into the positive narrative of the region. With actual smiles and handshakes, it has become a recognized Middle Eastern state—part of the landscape of its deserts, mountains, cities and Mediterranean coasts.
Airplanes will be able to fly freely between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Manama. Citizens of these countries will travel back and forth. Water will flow. Innovation in medicine, high-tech and agriculture will be shared. It’s a Rosh Hashanah miracle. The Messiah seems to be coming, after all.
“Hope and change”—the empty campaign slogan used by former U.S. President Barack Obama—doesn’t do justice to what is happening before our very eyes. That Saudi Arabia is allowing its airspace to be used for flights between Israel and the Arab world is but one example.
Oman, too, has welcomed the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, as has Egypt. Kuwait is looking on with caution. Even Qatar, a friend and ally of Iran and Hamas, is trying to hedge its bets—as the current agreements have shuffled all the cards.
Other Arab countries expected to normalize relations with Israel in the near future include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, as well as Sudan, Chad and even Kosovo, a Muslim country, which wants to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
All official statements welcoming the agreements express the hope that the Palestinians will eventually become part of the game again. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, decided on the Abraham Accord after Jerusalem and Washington agreed to suspend, at least temporarily, the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank as envisaged in Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan.
While the Crown Prince may expect some gratitude from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the latter is not complying, preferring, instead, to talk about Arab “betrayal” and “abandonment”—in concert with Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and any other proverbial pyromaniac who loves fanning the flames of war.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Lebanon earlier this month to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and discuss a multi-front terror war against Israel. While there, he announced Hamas’s plan to build on-site smart ballistic missiles. Lebanese newspapers denounced his remarks as an attempt to “destroy Lebanon” by making it the base of a war that its citizens don’t want.
Many say that it’s “not too late for the Palestinians” to reverse their rejectionism. Some believe that it is not in their DNA to extricate themselves from their disastrous comfort zone—one that not only has turned them into veto-masters in the nationalist and then Islamist Middle East, but also rendered them the protagonists of both, which are now waning.
It’s the end. The Middle East has lived with myths and legends. But pan-Arabism, tribal and sectarian tensions, corruption, violence and Islamism (that was used as a substitute weapon for defeated pan-Arabism) are now over in a large part of the world.
The entire fortress has been struck by a resounding wave of enthusiasm for a normal future with—and increased knowledge about—this “Martian” from the planet “Evil,” which Israel had become in the collective Muslim-Arab imagination.
Now, on the one hand, there’s normalization, which has been recognized by new Asian and African leaders (even among the Palestinians, according to expert Khaled Abu Toameh, courageous voices are emerging that despise corruption and terrorist incitement); on the other hand, there is the Tehran-Ankara axis and its friends, soldiers and proxies ready for war. Their aspirations have nothing to do with fighting on behalf of the Palestinians. They are locked in an old ideological terrorist spiral.
The Europeans should have learned from history how to distinguish peace from war. Choosing the former clearly is the better path, unless death and destruction have a strange attraction that magnetizes more than peace and prosperity.
This article was translated from Italian by Amy Rosenthal.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.