The historic Abraham Accords, signed at the White House last week, established normalized relations between Israel and two Arab monarchies, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. While the ceremony was impressive and its results significant, the Accords had an important side benefit: They cleared the air and allowed the world community — including American Jews — to view the art of Middle East peacemaking in a fresh light.
President Donald Trump and his team, particularly his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, deserve credit for delivering a game-changing agreement. As does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his pragmatism in choosing greater world acceptance over efforts to establish a Greater Israel. Similarly, leadership in the UAE and Bahrain deserve credit for acknowledging the reality of the benefits of normalization over the charade of confrontation and vilification.
Commentators have observed that the process that led to the Abraham Accords were years, even decades, in the making. And they argue that credit for the success should be shared with others who devoted years to the quiet cultivation of economic, technological and political relationships that enabled entry into the Accords. We agree. But that shouldn’t distract from recognition of the significance of the Accords, or the role played by the Trump administration in making them happen.
There are, of course, those who are less impressed by the Accords. They point out that Israel is doing nothing more than normalizing relations with Arab countries with which it was never at war and had no territorial differences — countries that have long seen relations with Israel much as they did relations with any other country. But that’s not really correct. The Abraham Accords are an important step in undoing the history of international vilification of Israel beginning with the damaging Arab oil boycott, which was designed to punish the West for its support of Israel following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and continuing with the UN General Assembly Zionism Is Racism resolution in 1975 that led most of the developing world to break ties with Israel.
The Accords, and some of the language in them, also put the vexing Israeli-Palestinian conflict into very sharp focus. That focus is likely to increase if, as predicted, a stream of neighboring countries establish relations with Israel. Increasingly, it is becoming more and more important for Israel — with the active support of its new and historic friends — to figure out a way to engage meaningfully and comprehensively with the Palestinians in an all-out effort to end the conflict.
While we continue to believe that a two-state solution offers the best answer, our views cannot substitute for those of the parties. We therefore welcome alternative approaches that are designed to achieve a meaningful, sustainable and secure peace; recognizes the legitimacy of the State of Israel; preserves her Jewish and democratic character; and provides for her legitimate security needs.
In the glow of the Abraham Accords, we pray for the realization of the dreams and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians who have been rehearsing their own accords for many years. JN